As a kid I found macaroni & cheese to be too bland. I could get through a serving if I had enough pickles. Apparently, though, I was a rarity. Macaroni & Cheese was part of pretty much any Children’s section on a menu, and presented frequently at Potlucks for “the kids”. I watched in horror as other children slathered it in ketchup and gobbled it up. Then there was the boxed version, Kraft Dinner. My older brother and sister would share a box upon returning home from school some days. I would go to my room.
It wasn’t until I had children of my own, that I realized why kids are served Mac & Cheese, a protein-laden pasta dish that would fill them up. Texture is important to children when eating, and it has a very consistent texture, so doesn’t get picked apart.
However, my palate still wasn’t buying it! So I started to play around. Typically when I make a simple white sauce, I add bay leaves to the heated milk, and nutmeg to the finished sauce. By adding a pinch of cayenne, it gave it a bit more zest.
I had always used aged cheddar, but added in some Parmesan and Gruyère, which definitely upped the flavour.
It wasn’t until reading Martha Stewart’s Favorite Comfort Food in the late 90’s that I found the one missing element that would raise my concoction to just what I was looking for, by adding a topping of buttered fresh bread crumbs.
This mixture of zest, cheeses & crumb elevates the lowly macaroni & cheese of my childhood, to something I am proud to serve, and even enjoy myself. Continue reading