Gentleman’s Macaroni and Cheese

In addition to ramen, another dish I rarely ate before meeting my husband is macaroni and cheese. Now I eat a lot of it, as B orders it frequently at restaurants.

The origin of macaroni and cheese is unknown, although it’s suspected to be Northern Europe (perhaps Switzerland); the first recorded mac and cheese recipe was in 1769. It came to the USA thanks to Thomas Jefferson, who brought it back after visiting Europe. He even brought back a pasta machine to make this dish and served it at government functions (Smithsonian).

Chef Uy: Did you know Thomas Jefferson brought mac and cheese to the USA?
B: The man’s a hero!

The famous boxed mac and cheese by Kraft started in the 1930s during the peak of the Great Depression, and was widely used because it was cheap and filling. It continued to be popular during World War II as the rationing limited items like fresh produce and dairy.

Nowadays mac and cheese isn’t just only a cheap and easy meal for college kids, and I’ve seen so many gourmet variations at trendy upscale restaurants (always with B ordering it, of course). I love how versatile mac and cheese is.

B makes mac and cheese in massive quantities using casserole dishes, but I prefer it in small portions for the sake of my heart/arteries. This is his go-to recipe for mac and cheese (by Alton Brown), and the crunchy panko topping gives such a great texture against the creamy cheese.

Some words of wisdom by B on his dish: “Mac and cheese is best shared, and it should not be eaten alone.” Fortunately for my waist, I don’t eat it alone. Enjoy this classic American dish!

Gentleman’s Macaroni and Cheese

1⁄2 lb elbow macaroni
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon mustard powder
3 cups milk
1⁄2 cup yellow onion, finely diced
1 bay leaf
1⁄2 teaspoon paprika
1 large egg
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded and to taste
salt and pepper to taste

3 tablespoons butter
1 cup panko breadcrumbs

MACARONI: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cook the pasta to al dente in a pot of boiling water and set aside.

Melt the butter in a bowl, and whisk in the flour and mustard powder. Stir in milk, diced onion, bay leaf, and paprika. Simmer for ten minutes and remove the bay leaf. Temper the egg by added some of the hot milk mixture into a small bowl the with egg to warm it (avoid heating the egg too quickly or the egg will scramble). Then add the egg mixture into the milk mixture and stir until combined. Stir in 3/4 of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Fold the macaroni into the mix and pour into a casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.

TOPPING: Melt the butter in a pan and toss the bread crumbs to coat. Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs.

Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and serve hot. Enjoy!

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