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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

COOK'S CORNER: Mac's Back!




There may be connoisseurs of haute cuisine out there who do not believe that any cooking column should stoop to include that most humble childhood pal f good ol' Macaroni & Cheese. But let me tell you f it deserves its own column!


I've been on something of a quest for awhile now f a hunt for the best macaroni & cheese recipe. This was a favorite of mine growing up, but somehow after I started spinning off spring rolls, rolling raviolis and making rubs and reduction sauces, I completely forgot how wonderful a casserole full of pasta and bubbling cheese smelled, let alone tasted.


Comfort food is back in vogue. Many of the toniest restaurants have added this venerable classic to their menus, along with other oldies like meatloaf and mashed potatoes.


I hit the cookbooks and started trying out all manner of macaroni & cheese variations. Some were "grown up versions" using goat cheese or bleu cheese. Some were bland while others added a jalapeno pepper to spice things up. Some insisted on topping the casserole with crushed Saltine crackers, while others swore by croutons. Some recipes took hours to make and others (namely my husband's) needed seven minutes and a box of Kraft Dinner.


In the end, I was happiest with a combination of the recipe in Food and Wine's Pasta cookbook and my mother's recipe. I liked the impossibly cheesy sauce from Food & Wine but felt that Macaroni & Cheese had to have my mom's touch f cubed ham and diced tomatoes. Even the hubby f the Kraft Dinner poster boy f has requested that this macaroni and cheese become a weekly ritual at our house.


Macaroni & Cheese


50 ml (5 tablespoons) butter


30 ml (3 tablespoons) flour


500 ml (2 cups) milk


750 ml (3 1/2 cups) sharp cheddar, grated


12 ml (1 1/2 teaspoons) Dijon mustard


Pinch cayenne


5 ml (1 teaspoon) salt


1 ml (1/4 teaspoon) pepper


2 ham steaks, cubed


2 tomatoes, diced


500 g (1 lb.) macaroni or penne


250 ml (1 cup) fresh bread crumbs


30 ml (2 tablespoons) fresh parsley


In a medium saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter. Add the flour and cook, whisking for one minute. Whisk in the milk. Over moderate heat bring to a boil, whisking. Reduce heat and simmer for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Add cheese, mustard, cayenne, 3/4 tablespoon of the salt, the pepper and whisk until cheese melts.


In a large pot of boiling water, cook the pasta until almost tender but still slightly underdone, about seven minutes. Drain.


Heat oven to 180 C. Grease a large casserole dish. Combine pasta, ham, tomatoes and cheese sauce. Transfer to baking dish. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and combine with the breadcrumbs, parsley and rest of salt. Sprinkle on top of the pasta and bake until the top begins to brown and the sauce is bubbling, about 30 minutes.