Macaroni and Cheese: Comfort Food with Complications

Mac and Cheese, please!

There is something to be said about macaroni and cheese.  It’s a deceptive dish in the sense that it appears to be so simple, but actually entails a rather complicated conundrum that has split its fans into two opposing camps: more sauce VS more cheese.

And it even goes beyond that simple argument.  There are those who claim that mac and cheese can be made with just about any kind of cheese you have in your fridge or larder.  There are those, on the other hand, who claim that the vivid orange American cheese is the only kind you can use.  And there’s an equally vocal third party that claims that you should use good ol’ fashioned Cheddar – and nothing else.

I don’t feel much like siding with any of the camps involved in this convoluted debate; I don’t feel qualified to, come to think of it.  That said, my take on the dish actually breaks all the standard-issue rules surrounding it.  Almost every Filipino household, you see, has a glut of queso de bola – those red-waxed globes of Edam or Gouda – after the Holiday Season.  Since the stuff keeps almost indefinitely, some families stick them in the fridge whole.  Others, like mine, will slice up or grate those cheeses to make a reasonable – and certainly tasty – substitute for pricey Parmigiano-Reggiano.  And with all that cheese in one’s kitchen, one has to find new ways of using it up!

Midge’s Homestyle Macaroni and Cheese

  • 1 500-gram pack elbow macaroni, prepared according to package instructions
  • 3 cups grated queso de bola
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 medium onion, chopped finely
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1/4 cup softened salted butter
  • scant 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons prepared mustard

Prepare the macaroni according to the instructions on the package.  Drain and set aside.

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat.  Once it’s bubbling, add the onion and cook till soft.  Add the garlic and cook till slightly browned.  Add the carrots and cook for about ten seconds, then add the flour.  Stir till the flour starts clumping together with the rest of the ingredients.  Add the milk and water; reduce the temperature to medium and bring to a boil whilst stirring constantly.

Once the mixture boils, add the mustard and stir.  Reserve 1/2 cup of the grated cheese.  Add the remaining cheese a handful at a time to the boiling mixture and stir until all the cheese has melted and you have a smooth, creamy sauce.  Remove from the heat.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees / Gas Mark 4.  Butter a rectangular baking dish; set aside.

Add the macaroni to the sauce and mix well.  Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish, making sure to spread it evenly.  Top with the reserved 1/2 cup of grated cheese.

Bake for 30 – 35 minutes.  Serve immediately.

This makes enough – and then some – for six diners.  You will definitely have some left over.  Save any leftovers and I will share a perfect way for sprucing them up in tomorrow’s post.  😀