The Perfect Mac and Cheese
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…it’s the holiday season! Both the secular and religious version of Christmas is going to be celebrated by many around the world on December 25th. With the Covid pandemic, many families won’t get to embrace each other for the holidays. There may be many downsides to staying at home, but fear not, for you still get to cook a big feast! Some American favorites are honey baked ham, cranberry sauce, collard greens, dressing, among others. But the best part of Christmas dinner is mac and cheese! And Americans are not the only ones who love it. In fact, Global News Canada states that Canadians buy the most mac and cheese per person – a whopping 55% more than Americans a year! That said, if you don’t already, by the time you finish reading this article, you’ll love mac and cheese just as much as I do and you will be ready to make a batch this holiday season. Heed the warning: You might get up as soon as you’re done reading this article and cook yourself a homemade pot of salty, gooey, goodness. The temptation might overpower any other tasks you were thinking about. If you’re still reading this, you ignored the warning. It’s too late to turn back now. So! Let’s continue. The perfect mac and cheese has three qualities: creamy, flavourful, and slightly crunchy. Now, I’m about to tell you 2 secrets to the best macaroni n cheese you’ve ever had. I know the questions swirling around inside your poor brain. “How do I make my mac and cheese creamy?” and, “What if it comes out wrong and I end up serving it to all my family members for Christmas, especially my rich, snobby cousin?” Well…maybe not that one. Regardless, be patient – you can’t make this dish in a hurry. Make it Creamy So, the first word is creamy. The only way you can make a creamy mac and cheese is by melting the cheese into the milk, in a pot on the stove…correctly. First, pick high-moisture cheeses, like mozzarella, cream cheese, and brie. Low-moisture cheeses, like parmigiano-reggiano, melt uneven and stringy. You’d need some serious heat to make these cheeses melt into a creamy, gooey liquid. Second, the age of cheese has a big effect on how it melts. Don’t use fresh cheese. Third, choose cheeses that are high in fat, like Cheshire and Leicester. On the other hand, cheeses relatively high in acid, such as Swiss Emmentaler and Gruyère, don’t melt smoothly. Wow, now you’re on the way to becoming a cheese connoisseur! One more step before you cook it, grate your cheese. Last, you can’t just make cheese sauce any way. In order to cook the most creamy cheese sauce, use warm milk, low heat, and whisk fast, but not the entire time. Let it sit some. Just 10 seconds will do, then whisk again. Have some patience! After all, you don’t want your sauce coming out chunky. Bleh! Find the Flavor Next, flavor. Use. At least. THREE. Cheeses! Why do you need to use at least this many cheeses? Well, 3 cheeses equals 3 different flavors which will enhance the flavor of your mac and cheese. Bland mac and cheese is not ideal. Bake in the Crunch! One last step: Crunchiness! There are two not-so-secrets to baking the mac and cheese. The first is layering it correctly. Oh yes, the order of how you layer the cheeses matters. If you want a crispy top, sprinkle grated parmigiano reggiano (remember how low-moisture cheeses don’t melt into a sauce, but stay in sprinkles?). Don’t confuse this with parmesan, though. Parmigiano is held to higher standards, like that it has to be made in a specific region of Italy. Pour the sauce before you sprinkle the parmesan. The second not-so-secret is really ripped up bread. Yes, I just said that. Bread crumbs aren’t just for birds! They’ll bake nicely on top of your mac. Take the time to bake this recipe this holiday season. Now do you love mac and cheese? Sources: McKechnie, Brian. “5 Odd Facts about Canada.” Global News, Global News, 2 July 2015, globalnews.ca/news/2084556/5-odd-facts-about-canada/. “The Science of Melting Cheese – Article.” FineCooking, 23 Dec. 2014, www.finecooking.com/article/the-science-of-melting-cheese.