By KEVIN FRISCH
I'VE ALWAYS LOVED Stouffer's Macaroni and Cheese, and would often enjoy it on those bitterly cold nights in San Diego. But several years ago, a terrible thing happened: the price of Stouffer's Macaroni and Cheese began to rise. When I came out to Boston the price seemed even higher -- either that or I had less money (or perhaps a subtle combination of both).
Well, things got pretty bad, and (though I'm ashamed to admit it) I even tried the 3/$1.00 Kraft Macaroni and Cheese (I hesitate to use the word "cheese" in this case). Not surprisingly, I was unable to eat more than an elbow's worth. So, after giving the remaining boxes to my roommate, I set out to make some of my own.
I tried a couple of recipes, and eventually found one with the right consistency but the flavor was just not there. I tried adding Tabasco sauce in increasing amounts to "bring out the flavor of the cheese" as one book said. But the flavor did not come out, remaining hidden behind overly Tabascoed macaroni and goo. Salsa worked much better, but I was still not satisfied. After all, macaroni and cheese is not Mexican, so it should not need salsa to make it edible. Then it dawned on me -- why not punt the regular cheddar I'd been using, and use sharp cheddar. It worked beautifully.
I will not bother to extol the virtues of macaroni and cheese (there are far too many to enumerate), but rather, I'll just give you the recipe.
Macaroni and Cheese
1 stick of butter (4 oz.)
2 heaping tbsp. white flour
1 pint light cream
1/2 tsp. salt
1 lb. grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 lb. macaroni elbows
1 lb. broccoli
Start by cooking the macaroni according to the directions on the box, adding half of the stick of butter to the boiling water. Drain the macaroni and set it aside. Break or cut the broccoli into bite size pieces, and cook them in boiling water for about five minutes, until they are a little underdone. Drain and set aside.
Preheat oven to 375@#F. Gently warm up the cream in a small pot. When it is warm, turn off the flame. In a large pot, over a small flame, melt the remaining half stick of butter. When melted, add the flour and stir continuously for about three minutes. Be very careful with the butter-flour mixture -- it will burn very easily. Next, add the warmed cream, and stir everything around until the mixture is almost -- but NOT -- boiling. Add 90 percent of the cheese and stir until melted. Now put in the macaroni and broccoli, and stir briefly. Pour into an 8x8x2 inch baking pan, and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Place the pan in the pre-heated oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until the cheese on top is melted and a little crispy. Makes six portions.
Although it is quite tasty as is, adding medium salsa (especially Enrico's@# brand) makes it even better.
Good luck and good eating.
(Please write to kevinf@athena if you would like to see more recipes of a certain type in this column, or if you have any comments or suggestions. -- KF)