Macaroni and cheese and I have a long history together. I grew up with the blue boxed variety and then moved into the realm of frozen cheesy pasta goodness. Don’t tell anyone I told you this, but in a pinch both Stouffer’s and Trader Joe’s have a mighty fine frozen mac and cheese product. And I suspect that someone, somewhere, has passed one of these off as homemade. I’m not saying I’ve ever done that. I’m just speculating that it has happened. The thing about that is as easy as frozen mac and cheese is, homemade is not much more work.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Can I boil water?
- Can I carefully measure out hot cooking water?
- Can I pour cream into a saucepan cook it down?
- Can I shred cheese?
- Can I mix together pasta, cream, cheese, and cooking water?
If you answered yes to all of these questions, you can make macaroni and cheese. And not just any mac and cheese. This is Michael Symon’s mac and cheese (MSmac). With no disrespect to the recipes I’ve tried from Martha, Ina, and Deb, this might just be the best mac and cheese I’ve ever made. Why is that?
First: I prefer stovetop mac and cheese over one that is oven baked. MSmac goes directly from stovetop to plate so my mac and cheese needs can be met in no more time than it takes to make the sauce and cook the pasta.
Second: I don’t want to spend $$$$ on three, four, or five different cheeses. MSmac calls for one cheese and while it’s fancier than American or Cheddar, it won’t break the week’s food budget.
Third: MSmac has a rich, silky cheese sauce. There are no lumps, clumps, or globs to dampen my mac and cheese enjoyment.
Fourth: MSmac has bacon. Does that really require an explanation?
Fifth: There really isn’t a fifth reason since bacon trumps anything else I could say.
I first discovered MSmac thanks to Alice at Savory Sweet Life. She wrote about it and I knew that it would not be long before MSmac and I found ourselves alone together. It was our destiny to find one another across the Intewebs. And let me tell you, destiny does not like to wait. Now that destiny has brought me together with MSmac, I don’t know what could ever tear us apart. This is what I want when all the little things in my day go wrong. This is how I want to console myself when the Universe is conspiring against me. This is my definition of comfort food.
Perhaps MSmac is right for you?
Disclaimer: Side effects of MSmac are mild to moderate and include eating it straight from the pot and licking cheese sauce off of serving utensils. Consult professional help for sauces requiring 30 minutes or more to reduce.
Mac & Cheese
Adapted from Chef Michael Symon
BAH Note: I’ve scaled this down because having the full recipe’s worth of this in my house is dangerous. In my opinion, this is best served as a side so you can enjoy a smaller serving and not feel completely wicked. But it can just as easily be your main course. You’ll want to be sure to use a nonstick saucepan and watch your heat so that the cream doesn’t scorch or boil over.
BAH Tip: I’m bad at guestimating when liquids have reduced, so to check I carefully poured the hot cream into a 2 cup liquid measuring cup to gauge my progress. It’s really about the volume of the cream more than it is about how long it takes. Just be patient and don’t rush the process.
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
- 1/4 pound bacon, fried, drained, and crumbled
- 1/2 pound short pasta
- 4 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
Bring cream and rosemary to a low boil over medium heat in a large saucepan. Keep at a low boil, stirring frequently, until reduced by half and thickened, approximately 25 minutes.
While the cream is reducing, cook the pasta according to the package directions. Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid before draining the pasta.
When the cream has reduced, add the pasta and grated Gruyere and stir to combine. Add pasta water until the sauce is as loose as you like. Stir in the crumbled bacon, taste for seasoning, and add salt to taste.