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Help with macaroni and cheese.

6 months ago

This is actually embarassing, since I am a 58 yo accomplished cook of a vast array of comfort foods and, not too infrequently, more complex, finer dining items. But, I uniformly fail in my attempts to make a creamy macaroni and cheese. My cheese sauce always turns out grainy. I'm sure it's my attempts at a roux, since my childhood recipe of cream of mushroom soup with additions of butter and various cheeses, has been perfect every time. I would just forgo any recipe including a roux, but some folks aren't fans of mushrooms, so it would be nice to start from scratch. But, I've failed 100% of the time. I've actually developed an almost paranoia, so I've simply stopped making mac and cheese, except for myself, using the mushroom soup.

But, a wonderful friend, who has been hospitalized recently, and is trying to regain lost weight, requested macaroni and cheese with hot dogs. Yes, I know, high class stuff. But, his appetite is so poor that I don't want to offer him anything that isn't absolutely scrumptious. So, can anyone help me overcome my roux block? I mean, it's not rocket science, but I'm having a near panic attack just thinking about it.


Martha

Comments (78)

  • 6 months ago

    'Bacon makes everything taste better.'

    ' IMO, bacon can easily ruin the flavor'


    Depends on the quality of the bacon and how much you use.


    I don't understand the objections to a proper roux, unless there is a medical reason. Why make things difficult when there is a simple, delicious method that's worked for generations? I'm amazed at the amount of discussion of one of the simplest, most basic, dishes one can make.



  • 6 months ago

    I am not surprised (or amazed) at all by the amount of discussion, since there are so many variations of this dish. I hate the simple, most basic version of this dish, but have adapted it to something that I like. I have no objection to the roux, but I do use a combination of butter and olive oil when making it.

    Pepperoni does sound like a good addition - better than wieners. Italian sausage might be good also, but I had not thought of that until I saw the pepperoni suggestion. I love bacon, but my brother won't eat it. I suppose I could crumble it on top of my serving.

  • 6 months ago

    This is my latest fave pasta shape - somebody here on the forums mentioned it, so I bought some and it's great, IMO:


    And perhaps cheese sauce gets grainy/curdled is because it's basically being cooked twice when you bake it? I also think sharp cheese also seems to break more easily in a sauce than mild, since it's firmer.

  • 6 months ago
    last modified: 6 months ago

    Floral, the objections aren't to the roux, per se. Americans, unlike much of the world, often think oven first. Assembe a dish and stick it in the oven to cook. In many places, you need an oven (range, really, or components) before a house can be certified for occupancy. Baked M&C is a thing, including versions where the macaroni are cooked in it as well. It's avoiding another step, another pot.

    The issue at hand is getting the roux right, and so it doesn't go gritty. It's child's play for some, but I learned from a Southern roommate when I was 25. I'm sure my mother knew how, but she didn't normally make roux based dishes or sauces. We never had M&C, gumbo, or anything on that spectrum. From the roommate’s instruction in roux and béchamel, I invented a pasta and cheese sauce dish very different from M&C (radiatore, mixed Italian cheeses, marsala, pepper), which was a go-to when I was in grad school. Since then, I've learned to make classic American M&C, but I'm hyper-picky about it, partly so it'll hold up to my variations and mix-ins. That's how I learned that quality packaged cheddar (not the rubber kind Claudia mentioned) can itself be gritty when melted.

  • 6 months ago

    Again, I need to thank all of you for your helpful comments. I think my next attempt at a pasta/cheese dish will include a sauce made with evaporated milk and corn starch. I'll also avoid cheddar cheeses and go for other melting cheeses. I love Muenster, Swiss, Provolone, Gruyere (sp?), etc. I don't even mind American/Velveeta. I love all the ideas for additions, though I am often cooking for my vegetarian family members. Mushrooms are always a favorite. I have to agree with those who find bacon over powering. I really only enjoy it on BLTs or in a particular broccoli salad. Best to all! Enjoy the upcoming holiday season.


    Martha

  • 5 months ago

    A couple of weeks ago, I set out everything non-fridge to make M&C, grated the cheese, etc. Then I tried making it in the morning before I was 100% awake, And was thinking the wrong recipe, with no flour. So then I was facing a runny mess that was starting to break, I tossed in a pinch of tapioca pearls, because they were there and went looking in the pantry for tapioca flour, but found arrowroot starch first. Bob's sells a big bag for a reasonable price—there are little jars for the same price, which is ridiculous!

    A little arrowroot kept the sauce from breaking and smoothed out the escaping fat, including with the addition of wine, which can kill a sauce. A little more arrowroot thickened the sauce nicely. No graininess or grit. I think arrowroot is now my go to for cheese sauce! I mean for thickening, before it even thinks about breaking!

    Not a novel idea, but made possible by Bob's Red Mill pricing.

  • 5 months ago

    I do not think what y’all call mac and cheese is my idea of mac and cheese. Y’all are making a pasta dish with a cheese sauce. but it is NOT southern mac and cheese, but enjoy.

  • 5 months ago
    last modified: 5 months ago

    Now I'm curious - what's meant by 'southern mac and cheese'?

  • 5 months ago
    last modified: 5 months ago

    There are as many versions of mac and cheese as there are cooks! There is no single recipe that is considered the "true" mac and cheese as it's been around for centuries, having first been a dish developed in Italy (entirely logical) in the 15th century and has gone through endless variations since that time. Any way you care to prepare it according to family or regional traditions or as a recipe you created yourself is perfectly valid as a proper mac and cheese.

    ETA: carolb, there are likely endless variations of "southern" mac and cheese as well!! No one holds the rule book on this. 😁

  • 5 months ago

    My definition, not Southern, is actual (elbow) macaroni and cheddar (can include other cheeses, but dominently cheddar), and gooey. The rest is commentary.

  • 5 months ago

    We always just use either Stouffer's mac and cheese or Bob Evan's mac and cheese. I know it's not gourmet but it's what my husband likes the most. If I try to make a complex recipe for mac and cheese, he really doesn't care for it.

  • 5 months ago

    Stouffer's mac & cheese was the standard I aimed for - it's very creamy and cheesy.

  • 5 months ago

    My brother pays $20 for a plate of Mac and cheese at this one restaurant and said it's worth every penny, but I won't pay it and have a problem paying so much for 50 cents worth of pasta and a buck or two worth of cheese.

    The worst is Fettuccine Alfredo, and the worst of the worst is olive garden! Who in there right mind would pay so much for such poor quality dog food. We had to go to one a few months ago for a birthday event and everything was garbage, from the shrimp Alfredo and Chicken Parmigiana to the spaghetti and meat balls. No doggie box required, we love our dogs.


  • 5 months ago
    last modified: 5 months ago

    Most undercook the macaroni and add too much extra stuff. Do not cook the macaroni al la dente. It needs to be well cooked. You only need drained elbow macaroni that is hot, butter or margarine, and the cheese of your choice. It can be Velveta or cheddar. Only add a little milk to thin after butter and cheese are melted. Do NOT use pregrated cheddar in a package. No flour, no bake, no sauces, no extra seasonings. Add salt and pepper to taste when eating.

    I am not saying the other stuff is not tasty, it is just not Mac and Cheese. That is always, for me, cooked on top of the stove. It is a side dish, not a casserole.

    When my boys were small and Dad was not home, it was our main meal.

  • 5 months ago

    Sorry sherry by you lost me when you mentioned Velveta. triple nasty, but think we can agree on biscuits and sausage gravy as a no brainier. Remember your Colorado post? So sorry,,,,,heehaw!

  • 5 months ago
    last modified: 5 months ago

    Warnings

    California State Chemical Warning Text

    NoneWARNING: No

    Sorry no problem.

  • 5 months ago

    " I am not saying the other stuff is not tasty, it is just not Mac and Cheese. "

    Only according to you :-)) Since there is no definitive recipe for any single "true" mac and cheese, any way it is fixed is legit - stove top side dish, baked casserole, cream sauce or no cream sauce, cheddar or any other cheese you prefer. They are ALL mac and cheese!!

  • 5 months ago

    Not to me. The others are a cheese casserole.

  • 5 months ago

    And that is an entirely personal viewpoint. But that does not lend it any greater validity than those who carry the belief that baked mac and cheese is the only way to go. No one's method or recipe is more authentic or legit than anyone else's!!

  • 5 months ago

    Velveeta isn't even cheese so it should be called "Mac and chems" if it's made with Velveeta.

  • 5 months ago
    last modified: 5 months ago

    Whatever, lol. It IS my take. And it is what is accepted in the SOUTH.

    Have a nice day!

  • 5 months ago
    last modified: 5 months ago

    Do not get your p———in a wad. I said the South. The deep South, but not the coast. They would add shrimp, oyster, crawfish, or crab. The northeast, the midwest, the northwest, California, the southwest, or Texas, which as they say is ”a whole nother country”. I like all of them. I just say basic mac and cheese is my basic recipe.

    ETA: and if you want creamy, most undercook the elbow mac. It needs to be what most would say very overcooked.

  • 5 months ago

    I have tried many different mac and cheese recipes and none of them have been up to par. My family likes stouffers mac and cheese so I just go with it now

  • 5 months ago
    last modified: 5 months ago

    Yeah, that is why no one can agree on here. I bought the Stouffers once to save time in the camper and my husband raked it into the trash. I did not think it was bad, but it did not taste exactly the same and he hated it.

  • 5 months ago
    last modified: 5 months ago

    I grew up in the South. Want my momma’s version of mac and cheese? Cook the elbow macaroni until it is flabby. Drain. Put in a rectangular casserole. Mix milk and an egg or two together. Pour over the flabby macaroni. Place a few, but just a few, thinly sliced pieces of rat trap cheese (mild cheddar?) on top. Bake until it is dry as a bone and the macaroni on the top layer has resumed it’s desiccated texture. It was awful. Fortunately, she didn’t make it often. I was an adult before I had M&C that was creamy. Consequently, I’m not terribly picky about it (except I won’t eat from the blue box).

  • 5 months ago

    Do do not use Velveta, use cheddar, I listed both, idiot.

  • 5 months ago

    Bbtx, flabby, yes, yes, yes. That describes the elbows. She may have overcooked it in the oven, but she nailed the pasta.

  • 5 months ago

    " And it is what is accepted in the SOUTH. "

    LOTS of different variations are accepted in the South so I fail to see why your version must be considered as the only one. It is not.

  • 5 months ago

    Okay, the OP wanted creamy mac and cheese. I have tried to post and it IS creamy, but everyone seems to get upset. It is not complicated, It does not have a lot of ingredients or steps. It is not spicy.

    If you do not like it, that is FINE! I am out of here.

  • 5 months ago

    @kevin9408, the Veleeta (as explained higher in the thread) is because it contains sodium citrate, as does American cheese. That is the source of ooey-gooiness. You can just buy the powder and omit the compound cheese. I do.

    I can't abide overcooked mac in the mac and cheese. I won't eat it if I can avoid it without being rude. In fact, I only use the macaroni fortified with legume protein which is firmer when fully cooked. That is, I want the cheese gooey, not the mac. I do usually give it flavor, however, even if it's just onion powder, and often do mix-ins. I get bored.

  • 5 months ago
    last modified: 5 months ago

    What's with the name-calling? Is someone spoiling for fight?

    Truly, 'mac and cheese' is a generic, and has myriad interpretations. I did a search for 'southern mac and cheese recipe' and the results were recipes rather different from what Sherry described. Most contained heavy cream, and all were baked too.

    And here's a recipe for macaroni and cheese from 1845...



  • 5 months ago

    Can't get more deep south than Paula Dean cooking and she makes a chocolate cheese fudge with Velveeta, ever tried it? Makes me gag thinking about the stuff but I guess it's what you grew up with and was forced to like when young. Do you like gumbo, Okra and cowpeas? Gumbo and Okra I never heard of in the north but found it quite good when I lived in Texas, but you said Texas isn't south. Then what is it?

  • 5 months ago
    last modified: 5 months ago

    Yes! I have tried the Velveeta fudge - just this year. As I told the women in my cooking club, if you have no idea how to cook and if someone held a gun to your head and said you must make fudge, the Velveeta fudge would be marginally acceptable. However, I threw it in the trash after giving it a couple of taste-tests. It was just weird. Not gag-inducing; just weird.


    ETA: I was looking for a good mac and cheese recipe once. Found one on Food 52 or a similar site. What I found so odd was the addition of figs…because it was for children. The author told a story of how she was responsible for one dinner for the children on a family beach vacation. She was the single aunt. She made mac and cheese and added figs. I can guarantee you that my grandchildren would turn up their collective nose at figs in their mac and cheese!

  • 5 months ago

    I think Martha Stewart and Paula Dean should have a cook off show with me as a judge. First dish, Mac and cheese, or Mac and chem, cooks choice.

  • 5 months ago

    Great video! But surprised he was new to the toasted breadcrumbs. I don't care for the grit in my M&C, but it's a classic. I had never noticed before, the cognate of macaroni and macaroon, so I found this equally interesting article at Slate: https://slate.com/human-interest/2011/11/macarons-macaroons-and-macaroni-the-curious-history.html

  • 5 months ago
    last modified: 5 months ago

    Paula Dean is not really Southern. She is the over-the-top Southern Fake Southern Belle basted in butter. No one cooks like her, at least no one I know.

  • 5 months ago

    Sherry, all I know is Paula Deen lost me years ago when she used glazed donuts as hamburger buns. I also remember her using canned fruit cocktail, Krispy Kreme donuts and sweetened condensed milk in bread pudding.🥴

  • 5 months ago

    OMG!! How hard is it to make bread pudding that you have to kill it like that?

  • 5 months ago
  • 5 months ago

    Now, that's just Kruel! You omitted the big box (9 oz, of raisins is more than 1.5 cups) and the pound of powdered sugar in the ”sauce”. My gums are trembling in fear! Was the recipe the winner in the how much sugar can you cram into a couple of eggs contest?

    I have put pastries ito bread pudding, but in that they carry the only sugar, and are offset by bread, and even so, one BP ended up too sweet because the doughnut holes were rolled in sugar which melted into the custard. OMG!

  • 5 months ago

    I use buttered saltine/soda cracker crumbs for topping - they're not gritty like breadcrumbs.


  • 5 months ago

    It was so long ago I didn’t remember all the ingredients. In the same show she made the burgers with glazed donut buns and the bread pudding.😵‍💫

    Kruel…well said!👍🏻

  • 5 months ago

    Oy. I hope that didn't come across as an accusation. I just never thought it could be worse until I clicked the link, and about plotzed. I mean, I've eaten both honey and brown sugar right off a spoon. So, a teaspoon of that recipe (more than I've eaten straight, but erring on the side of excess) would perhaps be refreshing in comparison, with the bits of fruit and custard cutting the sugar. Weird to make a dessert that can only be served by the teaspoon, however, and there are many much nicer ways to consume sugar than a spoonful straight.

  • 5 months ago

    Addressing the original post and a need for comfort food for someone having a craving for mac-and-cheese after a hospital stay, i like Julia Moskin's recipe. Silly easy. A NYTimes recipe from 2006. With just shy of 15,000 positive five star reviews.

    I only make it when i know i will have a few kids under 10. Last was probably 4th of July 2017 or 2018.

    A few tweaks like an extra 1/4 cup of whole milk, Toss the grated cheese in 2 tsp of corn starch and a 1/2 tsp sodium citrate. Prep a bit ahead and soak the dry elbows in the blender mix for an hour or three in the fridge. As it bakes the dry pasta soaks up the cream. Pre-soaking cuts down the oven time a bit.

    Any add-ins like sliced hot dogs, (no judgement), can be stired in the second bake.

    It gets you a sovetop/baked hybrid. NYTimes has a pay wall but found one via food52

    Julia's Mac-n-cheese link

    I do make a parm, panko, olive oil mix for a crunchier topping at the end.

    I use my 9inch square 'brownie' pan and just stir it in without using another bowl. Easy clean-up. For us and adult friends i make similar but call it 'loaded' or 'adult' mac.

    (lots of vegetables, olives, artichoke hearts, capers, proscuitto, etc). Better cheeses and much less by 2/3rd's.


    How Do You Use Sodium Citrate in the Kitchen

    More Modernist IngredientsClick here to get great sous vide content via emailThis post may contain affiliate links. Read more.Written by Jason LogsdonSodium citrate is a common sequestrant which acts as a stabilizer and improves the quality of food.

    Melted cheese is one of my favorite things on earth but some cheeses just do not melt well, limiting your options. With the addition of a little sodium citrate almost any cheese can be made into a smoothly melting cheese.

    Table of Contents

    Sous Vide Squid Puttanesca Recipe.mp4

    What is Sodium Citrate Used For?Top

    Sodium citrate is the ingredient in Velveeta cheese that makes it melt so well. You can make your own super-melty cheese sauces with the addition of sodium citrate. It's very easy to use; this process is so easy you'll never go back to making cheese sauces any other way! Just whisk it into a liquid then blend it in the cheese over heat and voila, smooth cheese sauce! It works with almost any type of cheese so use your imagination - the sky's the limit!

    Sodium citrate reduces the cheese's acidity, makes the proteins in the cheese more soluble, and prevents it from separating into an undesirable consistency; instead creating a smooth, creamy texture that stays together. It allows these cheese sauces to be cooled and reheated, molded or cut for cheese slices, used as fondues and quesos, or added to macaroni and cheese.


    LINK



  • 5 months ago

    Thanks for posting the contents. I usually just pop into the page I need via search, Sliceable cheese is an interesting concept... And I have memories of making fondue when I was very young and being miffed with the friends who didn't appreciate the amount of stirring and adjusting I did for their pleasure. I'm not sure they ought to be eating fondue, but I might be willing to essay it with magic powder... Or I could just feed them the mac and cheese with the good reisling in it. Same flavor, half the work. ;)

  • 5 months ago

    OP here again. My original goal with my post was to hear any and all suggestions that might help me produce a truly creamy mac and cheese dish. I have learned a great deal from all of you, and will report back when I next make a batch. Peace to all.


    Martha

  • 4 months ago

    Chloebud,

    This looks delicious! Though, I'm tempted to go totally off script and add cayenne and red pepper flakes. I'll have to try this the next time I visit my vegetarian DIL. My current roomates would probably enjoy the original version. I might try it today. Thank you for the link!


    Martha

  • 4 months ago

    YW! I’m constantly going off script...go for it!👍🏻 It’s part of the fun of cooking.