Super Cheesy Mac n Cheese

My brother spent Christmas in Fresno with his friends and was invited to a Christmas dinner in which he had “the most amazing mac n cheese ever”, he had asked if I can make some for him while he’s home from school. Being a college student, he rarely has home cooked meals that didn’t involve pre-marinaded meats from Trader Joe’s that he grilled quickly in his George Foreman grill between classes or packed social schedule. I’ve made simple “Mac n Cheese” before, no, not out of the box (ew!!), but this time, I decided to go all out with a proper bechamel sauce and 3 kinds of cheeses, all baked under a crispy cheesy bread crumb topping because I only eat mac n cheese baked.

Oh in other news, recently I got a shout out from Khmerican on their Facebook wall. They posted my website and called me a “talented Khmer blogger/chef” (yayyy!) or something like that. It was quite unexpected since I assume since my site is so new and I’m awful at updating, it’s rarely read. Lovely surprise that made me giggle all day, although I still am a bit lazy at the blogging. I have a ton of recipes and pictures of things I’ve cooked but have yet posted. It gets to be a bit hard when I cook with recipes and make things up on the spot and never stop to write them down. So when I do blog, I find myself struggling for exact measurements so I don’t send any readers in the wrong direction.

INGREDIENTS:

Mac n Cheese:
1 24oz package Macaroni (or any other short cut pasta)
1/2 cup of Unsalted Butter
1/2 cup all Purpose Flour
4 cups Milk, warm
2 cups Sharp White Cheddar, shredded (can use yellow Cheddar also)
2 cups Gruyere, shredded
1 cup Gruyere, cubed
1 cup Creme Fraiche (or equal part sour cream, if unavailable)
1 1/2 tbsp Dijon Mustard (can sub w/ 1 tsp mustard powder)
1 sprig Thyme, left on the stem
1/2 tsp Cayenne (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
cooking spray

Breadcrumb Topping:
3 tbsp Parsely, finely chopped
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 cups Panko breadcrumbs (or regular breadcrumbs)
1 tsp Black Pepper, freshly cracked
1-2 tsp olive oil

METHOD:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, set a large pot of water to boil, warm milk in the microwave for 1 min.

2. In a large sauce pot, on medium heat, melt 1/2 cup of butter. Add flour and stir quickly for 2 mins, allowing flour to cook. Add warm milk 1 cup at a time while stirring until all the milk is incorporated. If there are any lumps, continue to stir briskly until they’re all worked out. Bring mixture to boil, add a bit of salt, pepper, cayenne, dijon mustard and sprig of thyme. Lower heat and allow to simmer lightly and reduce for 5 mins.

3. Remove thyme stem, add 1 cup of shredded cheese at a time, whisking briskly afterwards to melt. Keep adding cheese 1 cup at a time until all shredded cheese in incorporated. Your sauce should be thick and wonderfully cheesy at this point. Taste for extra seasoning and add salt and pepper according to your taste

4. Add a lot of salt to boiling water (enough to taste like the sea) and macaroni, stirring gently so they don’t stick together. Cook for 10 mins or until al dente, drain pasta and put back into large pot.

5. Add cheese sauce to pasta, add creme fraiche and cubed Grueye, stir gently to mix.

6. Spray a 10×13 baking pan lightly with cooking spray and add pasta. With the back of a spoon, smooth out the surface so everything bakes evenly

7. Add all toppings ingredients together then evenly spread over pasta. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on top. Place in oven and bake for 35-45mins until bubbling hot and crisp on top.

8. Serve incredibly ooey gooey cheesy Mac n Cheese with side salad and meatballs (like I have, recipe to come!)

Cooking Notes:
1. I’ve put substitutions for all certain ingredients in case some are hard to find.
2. Mustard really brings out the cheesy flavor, it’s a must have!
3. Warm milk makes a creamy lump free sauce. If the milk is cold, it’s a bit harder to incorporate into flour/butter mixture.
4. You can use any combination of cheeses according to your taste, just keep it between 2-3 so you don’t overwhelm your palete
5. Remember not to over-salt your sauce, remember the cheeses all have different salt levels. It’s better to add a bit first and more later. You can always add more salt, but you can never subtract.
6. Alternatively, if you don’t like the breadcrumb topping, you can omit that and sprinkle about a cup of extra cheese on top for that bubbling melted cheese topper. Or if you don’t like baked mac at all, eat it after step 5! 😉

Voila, my version of cheesy comfort, I hope you try it and let me know if you liked it. My brothers really loved it! BTW, photos are killer right? Vibol came over and took some for me again, I paid him with food, because I’m cheap like that! Thanks Vibol!

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