Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Macaroni and Cheese with Ham and Peas

So I didn't get to go back and update recipes from my hiatus today like I had planned. I had a little breakdown last night with how completely overwhelmed I'm feeling with all the holiday stuff I need to get done and getting ready for a house guest and big event this weekend. The house guest is my brother, so it's not like my house needs to be spotless or anything, but I'd still like it presentable.

Anyway, at some point I'll go back and post at least two recipes I made while I was "gone" because I know I have pictures of what I made. There may be more but now I can only think of those two. I was trying to come up with meals that didn't require a lot of extra ingredients this week, mostly because I was feeling lazy. A couple months ago I spied "Cook's Illustrated All-Time Best Recipes" magazine at Costco. The darn thing just jumped off the rack into my cart...can you believe it?! One of the recipes is Classic Macaroni and Cheese, and there's a variation that adds in ham and peas. I had some ham in the freezer I wanted to use up, and all I needed to buy for the recipe were the two cheeses.

(The downside of Cook's Illustrated recipes are that I have to type them out becuase you have to have a subscription to the website, not just the magazine, to access the recipes on the website.)

Classic Macaroni and Cheese with Ham and Peas

Bread Crumb Topping
6 slices large white sandwich bread, torn into rough pieces
3 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces

Pasta and Cheese
1 pound elbow macaroni
Table salt
5 Tbsp unsalted butter
6 Tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp powdered mustard
1/4 tsp cayenne (optional)
5 cups milk (whole, lowfat, or skim)
8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)

For the bread crumb topping: Pulse bread and butter in food processor until crumbs are about 1/8 inch, 10 to 15 1-second pulses. Set aside.

For the pasta and cheese: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat broiler. Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a Dutch oven over high heat. Add macaroni and 1 tablespoon salt; cook until pasta is tender. Drain pasta and set aside in colander.

In now-empty Dutch oven, heat butter over medium-high heat until foaming. Add flour, mustard, and cayenne (if using) and whisk well to combine. Continue whisking until mixture becomes fragrant and deepens in color, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk; bring mixture to boil, whisking constantly (mixture must reach full boil to fully thicken). Reduce heat to medium and simmer, whisking occasionally, until thickened to consistency of heavy cream, about 5 minutes. Off heat, whisk in cheeses and 1 teaspoon salt until cheeses are fully melted. Add pasta, ham, and peas and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is steaming and heated through, about 6 minutes.

Transfer mixture to broiler-safe 13x9 inch baking dish and sprinkle evenly with bread crumbs. Broil until crumbs are deep golden brown, 3-5 minutes, rotating pan if necessary for even browning. Cool about 5 minutes, then serve.


This definitely sounds like more work than my usual macaroni and cheese, but I'm curious to try it. I don't think Cook's Illustrated has ever done me wrong, so I have pretty high hopes for this. I always feel kind of guilty if I think about--or actually do--change around a Cook's Illustrated recipe since they go through a lot of work developing them (another reason I love the magazine--you get to read how they came up with the recipe!). I think we may have a salad on the side with this, but since there are peas mixed in, I'm not sure if we'll have another vegetable or not.


Well, this was good, but I'm not sure it was good enough for all the work involved. Or maybe it just seemed like a lot of work because dinner time around here is crazy. For whatever reason both my kids feel the need to be around me, even though daddy is home and hasn't seen them all day. So it could be that it just seemed like I was in the kitchen forever because I had to keep removing my now-walking one year old from the kitchen.

I used spiral pasta because it's what I had, and the boy complained that he didn't like the shape and where were the macaronis. The husband said he'd like it better without the peas. I really didn't think it was any better than my mother-in-law's recipe that I normally make, which is much less time-consuming. I think if you have the time, make this and you'll like it, but it's definitely not something you can rush through with the roux and all that.

(Okay, somehow I never hit Publish Post...oops. Since I still need to post it I will add that the husband and I both liked the leftovers better than the first time we ate it.)

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