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Macaroni and Cheese

Macaroni and Cheese

Ingredients

  • 4 cups milk
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 whole clove
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 white onion, peeled
  • 2 cups shredded sharp white Cheddar cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste
  • Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
  • 2 teaspoons dry sherry
  • 1 pound dried macaroni
  • 1 cup bread crumbs

Prep Time:

Cook Time:

40 minutes

Serves:

Recipe courtesy of Williams-Sonoma Kitchen.

Freshly made bread crumbs are the key to achieving a crisp, golden crust, the hallmark of perfect macaroni and cheese. You can make bread crumbs from slices of stale or fresh bread. Arrange the slices in a single layer on a baking sheet, place in a 300°F oven, and bake until they are completely dried and lightly toasted, 20 to 35 minutes. In a food processor, pulse the bread until the crumbs reach the desired consistency, then season with salt and pepper. You can also flavor them with butter or extra-virgin olive oil and fresh herbs or minced garlic.

Feel free to substitute another cheese for the Cheddar. Gruyere, fontina and Emmentaler are good choices.

Preparation

  1. Position a rack in the upper third of an oven and preheat to 375°F. Butter a shallow 2-quart baking dish.
  2. In a saucepan over medium heat, warm the milk until bubbles begin to form around the edges of the pan. Keep warm.
  3. To make the roux, in another medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. When the foaming subsides, add the flour and cook, stirring constantly with a whisk or wooden spoon, until the flour and butter thicken into a paste and smell fragrant, about 1 minute. Do not let the roux brown. Slowly whisk in the milk until smooth and blended. Bring the sauce to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom and sides of the pan to prevent lumping and scorching, then reduce the heat to low.
  4. Using the clove, attach the bay leaf to the onion and add it to the sauce. Cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 30 minutes. Remove and discard the onion, add 1 cup of the cheese and stir until blended. Season with salt, white pepper and nutmeg, add the sherry and stir until blended.
  5. Meanwhile, bring a large pot three-fourths full of water to a boil over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon salt and the macaroni and cook according to the package instructions until al dente (tender but firm to the bite). Drain well.
  6. Transfer the macaroni to the prepared dish. Spoon the sauce over the macaroni, scatter the remaining 1 cup cheese over the top and sprinkle the bread crumbs over the cheese. Bake, uncovered, until lightly browned and bubbling, 35 to 40 minutes. Serve immediately.
  7. Serves 4 to 6.