Thursday, March 13, 2014

What's On My Plate! // Baked Mac Casserole Style

In the midst of a juice cleanse, while eating no food for 5 days, I've perfected our family's Baked Mac. Yep, that homemade, creamy comfort noodle just got better around here and I couldn't even eat it. However, my man was thoroughly pleased with it so I enjoyed a way. 

I've always made my own macaroni and cheese. I went through a period - you know, in college when laziness takes over your drive for good food - where I ate the boxed stuff. But ever since I was little, boxed mac was that stuff you ate at a sleepover, not at home with mama's good cookin'. So I learned, and have always made it as well, with a roux-béchamel-mornay including freshly shredded various cheddars and pepper jack for kick. I've changed it up here and there and it's one of the few ways I can get my husband to eat tuna so it's actually most often a Tuna Mac around here. It's a budget friendly protein and if that's the only way he's going to do it then Tuna Mac it is!

In my efforts to always improve my at-home culinary arts, I came across a Food52 post sharing their experience adapting Martha Stuart's version. I've made my own version so many times that I couldn't even tell you the recipe because it's one of those things I just do. Have I deviated from the original over time? Maybe, I don't know. So exploring this recipe again was good for me to get back to measurements and check my version against it. She uses Gruyere cheese verses my usual mix of cheddar/jack (or the experiments of whatever leftover cheese I've had that haven't always turned out the best). This definitely added to the creaminess I've been wanting. Her measurements give a generous amount of cheese to noodle ratio which I've dialed down a bit to keep it a little on the healthy side. The protein and veggies surely add some healthiness too. 

So here's What's On My [husband's] Plate: our family's current version of Baked Mac spruced up protein/veggie style with some tuna and peas, aka tuna casserole. I don't know what was harder, not eating this deliciousness or writing about it!

14 oz elbow macaroni
6 Tbsp butter
6 Tbsp flour
4 Cups milk
3-4 cups shredded cheese 
(1/2 sharp white cheddar and 1/2 applewood smoked Gruyere)
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 cup frozen organic peas
1 can white tuna packed in water
Panko breadcrumbs

1. Cook and drain pasta. Don't overcook because you'll be baking it later.
2. Heat milk, keep warm and set aside.
3. Meanwhile, start your roux. On medium heat, melt butter in saucepan. Once melted and bubbly but not burning add four and stir immediately and get out all clumps.
4. Make your béchamel. Once roux is mixed, flour totally incorporated and a slight aroma coming from the flour cooking, slowly pour in your still warm milk 1 cup at a time. Incorporate it well each time. No lumps, just creamy, saucy goodness. Keep stirring, don't burn and allow it to thicken.
5. Make your mornay. Once the béchamel is thick and creamy add the shredded cheese about 1 cup at a time. Let it melt into the sauce.
6. Add spice! You can change this up and make it to your taste. Taste it until it's good to you. If we want it spicy, this is the step where I would add some Tapatio (we love Tapatio) or extra cayenne to step it up.
6. Add your noodles, peas and tuna to boost your noodle goodness. 
7. Pour into a greased 13x9. Top with panko cumbs. Bake at 350 until browning. About 20-30 minutes.


Read all about my experience juicing here. 

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