Monday, September 29, 2008

Macaroni & Cheese

I was asked to make a side dish for our son's cub scout den's Fishing Derby. My son enjoys attending the Fishing Derby each year and each year I make a side dish for it. I usually make macaroni and cheese. I figure that the adults will enjoy it and the kids may, too. To be honest, kids generally prefer the Kraft Macaroni and Cheese from the blue box. In fact, my son is definitely one of those who will only eat Kraft Mac & Cheese. It doesn't bother me. I still like to make homemade mac and cheese now and then. I got this recipe from a friend of a friend. It has served me well. I know you'll enjoy it. It isn't gourmet food. I would call it comfort food.

Apparently, good 'ole mac and cheese has a long history in the U.S.A. I read a blog that indicated some people believe that Thomas Jefferson created the dish! According to an article in a 1996 "Restaurants & Institutions", Barbara Bell Matuszewski wrote that Jefferson served the dish in the White House in 1802. However, according to food historian Karen Hess, Jefferson did not invent the dish, he returned from a trip to Paris with a macaroni mold. He was definitely the first president to serve macaroni and cheese at the White House and maybe the last!

I am also going to include a recipe for the dish from Mary Randolph's (Thomas Jefferson's cousin) "The Virginia Housewife," first published in 1824. It is an interesting recipe, to say the least.

Macaroni and Cheese

16 oz of uncooked elbow macaroni or shells
1 stick of butter
4 cups of milk
12 oz sharp cheddar (grated) cheese, reserve a handful to sprinkle on top
1 teaspoon of salt (I cut this down from 2 teaspoons in the original recipe)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne or black pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Cook the macaroni according to the package directions.
In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter, whisk in flour to make a paste. Add milk. Bring to simmer over medium heat until thickened (about 1-2 minutes). Add the salt, pepper, nutmeg and cheese, stir until smooth. Stir the cooked macaroni into the cheese sauce and pour into a 3 quart casserole dish. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top and bake for 30 minutes.

(You can easily do half the recipe in a 1-1/2 or 2 quart baking dish or even double the recipe for a large crowd.)

Mary Randolph's Macaroni and Cheese
from "The Virginia Housewife"

This is an example of a very early recipe for macaroni and cheese.


Boil as much macaroni as will fill your dish, until quite tender. Drain and sprinkle a little salt over it. Put a layer of macaroni in your baking dish, put on it slices of cheese, and on that a few bits of butter, then macaroni, cheese, and butter, until the dish is full, put on the top thin slices of cheese, bake in a 400° oven for 20 to 30 minutes.

The Creative Cook