Macaroni & Cheese

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Macaroni & Cheese Adventure

There was a newsgroup message from a friend of mine who had gotten excited when she found out that Kraft was marketing powdered cheddar cheese.  The message thread made references to the Kraft Parmesan cheese that comes in cardboard boxes.  

I added my two cents by pointing out that the grated cheese that comes in those boxes have only slightly more flavor than the cardboard boxes themselves.  I also mentioned the joys of grating fresh Parmigiana Reggiana cheese at the table (a recent trip to Balduccis restocked our refrigerator with some lovely cheese)

However, to be fair... among all the lovely recipes that I've posted on this web site, there is a confession I must make.  

We actually LIKE Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Dinner!

There, I've said it.  Perhaps it hearkens back to college days when it was a 19 cent meal.  Perhaps it's the other-worldly color of the resulting macaroni (Three Mile Island and Chernobyl seem to come to mind).

So I, your humble reporter, decided to give this dish its place among the more eclectic recipes on our web site.  Click on the small photos for a larger view.

Even if you can't cook... you can cook this!

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The photo above shows the cast of characters.  Note that we've chosen the original version, with the cheese mix in the foil pouch.  The deluxe version comes with a cheese-wiz paste in a little can nestled into the box.  But purity prevails!

So, sparing no expense (we went for the Family Size box), and in excruciating detail, I bring you the Great Macaroni and Cheese Adventure.

Although recent years has brought with it a microwave cooking instructions as an alternative to the conventional stovetop technique, I present the classic recipe (verbatim) from the side panel of the box.

The recipe

  • BOIL 8 cups (2 qt.) water.  Stir in Macaroni.  Boil 7 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • DRAIN.  Do not rinse.  Return to pan.
  • ADD 1/2 cup margarine, 1/2 cup milk and Cheese Sauce Mix, mix well.  Makes about 6 cups.

The steps

Boil the water.  The amount of time this takes varies with the output of your stove's burners, the conductivity of your cookware, the amount of water, the altitude and the barometric pressure.  Fortunately, this step isn't critical... over boiling the water will not change its taste or texture.  

We live in northern NJ, where the tap water is pretty good.   Though I suppose you could use some imported mountain spring water with a fancy name, if you really wanted to impress your friends.

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Add the macaroni.  Now granted, most folk pour the macaroni directly from the box into the water (preferably after having removed the foil pouch from the box).  I considered doing this, but after making the first photo in this series (and scotch taping the top of the box shut, just to be neat about it), I didn't relish the idea of scooping all those noodles back into the box for a pouring shot.  So the stainless steel bowl served admirably as the pouring vessel.

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Drain the pasta.  Please remember to do this in the sink.  Otherwise your feet will probably get wet and burned.  I did not see any mention on the box about liability for injury caused while preparing this recipe, so it's important to incorporate all the OSHA guidelines for food preparation.  

Also you have to remember what not to do... you are not to rinse the noodles... we need the starch for sauce adhesion.

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Return the noodles to the pot on the stove and place a low heat under the pot.

Now, here's where the recipe is open to theological interpretation. the recipe specifies: 

  • ADD 1/2 cup margarine, 1/2 cup milk and Cheese Sauce Mix

We put the cheese mix in first.  We've always put the cheese in first. We're probably doing it wrong.  However, because this is a comma separated list, and considered one step in the recipe, I think it's safe to do it this way.  

Looking closely at the photo series, I noted that we did it in absolutely the reverse order of the recipe!  Perhaps I once saw a Hebrew version of the recipe that read from right to left, and it may have indelibly imprinted on my brain.

I doubt that there is any poisonous chemical reaction occurring by adding the ingredients in a slightly altered order (besides, it makes for more colorful photos).  Sadly, the photos don't fluoresce like the bright orange cheese does.  This might be a result of the infrared filtering incorporated into the current run of digital cameras... but I digress. 

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Add the milk, deciding if you want to make a mud puddle in the middle of the cheese mix.  We used 2% milk, a concession I'm not sure why we made, but that's what was in the refrigerator.

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Next add the margarine.  Using butter would probably make the noodles explode, so we stayed with the original specifications.

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Stir the noodles with a stirring thing.  Generally, stirring with your fingers is not a good thing for two reasons:

  • You may poach your fingers.

  • For weeks, folk may assume that you are a Cheeze-Doodle addict, as I don't know if the color ever washes off of skin once saturated.

This is where the cooking technique gets important.  Some folk just stir until the ingredients are incorporated.  I prefer a folding motion, bringing noodles to the top, gently and lovingly.  

It's also up to you to decide how long to mix over the low heat.  I don't quite know what "Mix Well" means.  The longer you do it, the creamier it gets.  Stir for too little time, and it will be watery. Then again, if you do it too long, you'll wind up with cheddar toasted noodles.  

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Once you've finished mixing, transfer to a bowl or to serving plates.  If you live alone, this last step is optional... you can eat right out of the pot.  

I typically add a little salt as a garnish.  Other garnishes might include some beluga caviar, or thinly sliced black truffles... no wait... that's only if you use the Deluxe dinner!

I hope you've enjoyed this little adventure.  If you have comments, please visit the Guestbook.

Enjoy!

Addendum

Ok, ok... now that the page has been published for a while, some folk have written to me on the way they've improved on the basic recipe.  Some add pepper, other spices, ham or tuna.

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However, the Kamado synapses have been working overtime.  This has gotten to thinking about improving Mac & cheese.  Of course, the next step would be to cook it on my Kamado in a wok on the "mushi" grill, it raises some obvious questions:

  • What temperature should I use? 
  • Is this a low & slow meal, or a high temp incineration? 
  • Should I use gas or lump charcoal?  
  • Should I use the cardboard box as additional smoky flavor?  

I clearly need to get out more.

If you have comments, please visit the Guestbook.


Copyright 2000 by Zenreich Systems. All rights reserved.
Revised: April 29, 2013

 

All text and photographs copyright 1999 - 2013  Zenreich Systems. All rights reserved.