Today's Mac and Cheese
From Macaroni and Cheese: 52 Recipes, from Simple to Sublime
by Joan Schwartz
Rick Bayless, chef and owner of Chicagos Frontera Grill and Topolobampo, confesses that he grew up on the wonderful slow-baked macaroni and cheese served at his parents restaurant, which he calls crusty cheese over submissive macaroni. His adult version is creamy and a little edgy with the delicious jolt of salsa.
2 cups milk
4 tbsp. butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups good-quality salsa
3 cups (3/4 pound) shredded Cheddar cheese
Kosher salt, about 1 1/2 tsp.
1 pound dried pasta (elbow macaroni, cavatappi, rotini, or fusilli)
Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
1.Fill a large pot with about 6 quarts of water and set over high heat. Warm the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat, or in a glass measuring cup in a microwave, for about 1 minute. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat, then stir in the flour and whisk until the mixture turns a deep golden, about 2 minutes. Add the warmed milk all at once and continue to whisk constantly until the mixture thickens and comes to a full boil, 4 or 5 minutes. (Whisk diligently and there will be no lumps.) Stir in the salsa, remove from the heat, then stir in the cheese, stirring until it melts. Taste and season generously with salt.
2.When the water has come to a boil, add the pasta. Stir well so no pieces stick together and boil until the pasta is al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain thoroughly and return to the pot. Stir in the cheese sauce, then spoon into a serving dish. Sprinkle with cilantro.
Note: If you want a wonderful contrasting texture, spoon the macaroni and cheese into a buttered baking dish. Top with 1/2 cup bread crumbs mixed with 1 tablespoon melted butter and bake in a preheated 375F oven for 10 to 12 minutes, until richly browned and crisp.
Excerpted from Macaroni and Cheese by Joan Schwartz Copyright 2001 by Joan Schwartz. Excerpted by permission of Villard, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.