a story of the most delicious mac & cheese. EVER.
There's this love affair with mac & cheese that the majority of people have. It's one of those traditional comfort foods that you just eat when you want to indulge or make you feel better and then maybe regret after you've polished off an entire dish of it. Belly up on the couch in a mac & cheese coma.
Chrissy Teigen's Mac & Cheese is one of those dishes. A MUST try if you even remotely have an inkling of passion for gooey, creamy, rich, garlicky-crunchy topped mac & cheese. If you are not, then this will forever turn you into a mac & cheese lover.
Before I go into the nitty gritty of this life-changing experience, let me just say that I kind of have a love affair with Chrissy Teigen and her personality (oh, and her Instagram page). She's bold, out-spoken, hilarious, real and just plain entertaining. And Cravings is just proof that she's also multi-talented - in the kitchen that is. Her passion & history of food is much like mine - she grew up cooking with her mom in the kitchen from a young age and this carried through to her adult years. She's not your typical supermodel who eats just salads and kale smoothies. She indulges and eats real food. Stuff that I wouldn't even attempt for fear that I would add another layer of pudge to my mid-section (ummmm, case in point. THIS is another recipe from her book).
Back to the mac & cheese. I learned to make my own mac & cheese many years ago, simply because when my mother always made her's from scratch. Its really quite simple believe it or not. Make a roux, toss in milk, whisk, add shredded cheese, whisk, add seasonings, whisk and then dump in cooked macaroni noodles. Top with more cheese and bake in oven for up to 15 min. Voila, and there you have it.
So making this dish wasn't rocket science for me but I did notice some variations to Chrissy's recipe that I think took this over the top. The first was boiling & simultaneously whisking the roux on med-high heat for like 5-6 min until it turns a light, toasty brown colour. For anyone who's ever made a roux, you know to only cook for a couple minutes because it thickens fast, clump and burn. This method did not and the colour was exactly what the recipe called for and the smell was even better.
There were also a few different cheeses going on in this recipe, which can really make or break a mac & cheese. Chrissy called for American cheese slices (odd, but I followed), shredded Gruyere (or Swiss) and shredded cheddar. Nothing groundbreaking here, but it was A LOT of cheese and I had a bit of Gruyere left over then topped it off with Swiss. This I would highly recommend. You can't go wrong with a variation of cheese. Plus it asked for 5 cups of whole milk, so it made a lot of sauce!
Once it was time to mix the sauce with the noodles I was concerned there was WAY too much sauce, but I added it all. My noodles were swimming in sauce, and at this point I thought I ruined the entire dish. But I still needed to bake it, so onward. And I had to add the monumental cheesy garlic bread crumbs on top.
Ok, stop the bus people. Get off and listen up. THIS is what makes the entire dish. I rarely add a topping to my mac & cheese but you will want to after trying this. Its like having crumbled up garlic bread on your mac & cheese and oh my, is it heavenly. Nathan was speechless when he took his first spoonful. He was at a loss of words but when he did speak, he simply said, "this is the best mac & cheese ever" followed by "when are you making this again?"
So, are you ready to make this? I would caution, when you do eat this, DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT put on a bathing suit or anything fitted. Make sure you have on a loose t-shirt and sweatpants. With a drawstring. Your stomach will expand and you will be belly up on the couch for at least an hour afterwards. But in a good way.
Chrissy Teigen's (NOT John's) Mac & Cheese
Serves 8-12 people
1lb pasta shells
1tsp vegetable oil
1 stick (4oz) unsalted butter plus more for greasing baking dish
5tbsp all-purpose flour
5C whole milk
3C Gruyere (or Swiss) cheese, grated
3C cheddar cheese, grated
3/4lb orange, American cheese (about 16 slices but I only used a fraction of this)
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4tsp cayenne pepper or more to taste
Cheesy Garlic Bread Crumbs (recipe below)
Preheat the oven to 425 degree F. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta minute less than called for on the package. Drain, rinse, and ross with oil to prevent sticking. Set aside.
Grease a 9"x13" baking dish with a little butter. I also used cast-iron french onion soup bowls for individual servings.
In a large saucepan or soup pot, heat the 1 stick of butter over medium-high heat until melted but not browning. Add the flour and cook, constantly whisking until it turns a light and toasty brown colour, 5-6 minutes. Gradually add the milk while whisking until it thickens, 4-5 minutes. Add the cheese a few handfuls/slices at a time, reserving a handful of cheese, and whisk the sauce until smooth. Whisk in 2 teaspoons salt. 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and the cayenne.
Stir in the cooked pasta, season to taste with more salt and pepper and cook until the pasta is hot again. Pour the mixture into the baking dish of your choice. Top with the remaining cheese and spread the bread crumbs evenly over the top. Bake until the topping is browned and crisp, about 8-10 minutes.
Cheesy Garlic Bread Crumbs
Makes about 4 cups
8 slices white sandwich bread, torn into pieces (I actually used ACE Bakery white demi-baguette which worked really well & was super fresh)
6 cloves garlic, minced
6tbsp unsalted butter
1tsp kosher salt
1/2tsp freshly ground black pepper
5tbsp finely grated parmigiano-reggiano
In a food processor (or blender), process the bread until it forms fine crumbs. In a small-medium pot, heat the butter over medium-low heat. When it foams, add the garlic and cook, stirring until the garlic smells great but hasn't browned, 1-2 minutes. Add the bread crumbs, increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring frequently until toasty and browned but not burned, 7-9 minutes. Stir in the sale and pepper and remove from the heat. Transfer to large plate to cool for 5 minutes. Toss in the parm and spread on top of the mac & cheese.