My friend Stewart is teaching his 11 year old son to cook. That makes me happy because every kid should know how to make some basic meals, sew a button, balance their bank account and handle a hammer and screwdriver. This kid likely has great cooking genes, too, since from what I hear, both parents are good cooks. Stewart asked me for a good, simple Mac and Cheese recipe. Little did I know how much controversy this would cause.
I asked three cooking teacher buddies of mine what kind of Mac and Cheese they’d start a kid on in the kitchen. I didn’t guess there’d be such furor in the emails. Some are firmly in the “start with a white sauce” camp, and others are in the “layering” camp. I’m in the layer camp myself.
Apparently, it's the kind they ate at home they love the best. And will defend their choice nearly to the point of deleting each other from their contact lists. “Reply to all” was a BAD idea. Where’s my striped shirt and whistle? Wow. I only asked because my best Mac and Cheese recipe is a riff on a Martha recipe and it’s too complicated for a kid, and too many pans for Dad to wash. Oh, and Stewart, teach him to clean up after himself in the kitchen, willya?
There seem to be three distinct categories of Mac and Cheese: the stovetop gooey kind, the baked gooey kind and the baked almost sliceable kind. We had the sliceable kind at home and I never liked it all that much. My first encounter with gooey Mac and Cheese came from a blue box, and I pleaded for it weekly. On occasion the pleading worked, but usually my Mom made her baked Mac and Cheese. Luckily, one of my mothers-in-law (I’ve had a few…) made a good, simple version, which I’ve embellished a bit over the years. Rich, cheesy, gooey and easy. Here ya go, Stewart.
Mother-in-Law Mac and Cheese
1 pound of elbow macaroni, cooked al dente according to package directions and drained
1 pound of shredded sharp Canadian Cheddar cheese
½ pound of shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 12oz. can of evaporated whole milk
1 cup heavy cream or light cream
Butter for pan and foil
Foil to cover
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 4-quart (or bigger) broad casserole dish. Place 1/3 of the macaroni in the bottom of the casserole and top with 1/3 of the cheeses. Repeat until everything is used, ending with a cheese layer. Mix the canned milk, and the cream and pour evenly over the top. Butter the foil, and cover the dish tightly. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes until all is melted and bubbly. Supposedly serves 6.