Monday, January 23, 2012

One Pot Mac and Cheese

My husband has a new job that requires him to travel. When he is traveling I learn things about myself. Namely I learned that when I cook, I make a lot of dishes. A lot is an understatement. There is an inverse relationship between the input of dishes and the output of food. I also leave all of the cabinet doors open. I should probably go tell Mark how much I appreciate him cleaning up after me and closing the cabinet doors.

Step one is admitting you have a problem. Step two is doing something about it so this weekend I made one pot (one colander, one cheese grater, one small cutting board, one whisk and three spoons) macaroni and cheese.

I apologize that there are no pictures to go along with this post. I have a history of burning dairy based sauces so I have focus on the task at hand.

To make you need:
  • Lots of Cheese: I used all of the leftover bits of cheese in my fridge, mostly sharp cheddar and some sharp provolone from Di Bruno Brothers that my friend Tammy brought to a recent get together,  plus a wedge of red wax Gouda. In total I had a gallon Ziploc storage bag a little more than 3/4 full for a total of about 2.5-3lbs of cheese. I am a firm believer that more cheese is always greater than less cheese.
  • 3 T Butter, real butter is preferred but you can use olive oil. "Light" anything will not work since it contains water and we need fat to create a roux.
  • 3 T Flour
  • 1 Cup Heavy Cream, it's high fat content helps prevent lumps especially when you are adding the milk cold like I do to keep the one pot thing going.
  • 1.5 Cups Milk, whatever you have is fine. I use whole milk since that is what we buy.
  • 1/4 Tsp Cayenne
  • 1/2 Tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 Tsp Dry Mustard (optional) I couldn't find my dry mustard so I didn't use it and everything turned out fine.
  • 1 Box Noodles I used Wegmans Tortiglioni because my son picked it. You can use whatever you have.
  • Salt to taste
  1. In a large pot of salted water boil noodles according to package instructions for desired doneness level.
  2. Drain noodles into a colander and set aside while you prepare the sauce. Don't rinse.
  3. Add butter to pot and melt. Be careful about putting the pot back on the burner you were using to boil the water. The burners on my electric stove top stay hot enough to burn butter quickly for a few minutes after I have turned down the heat.
  4. As the butter melts it will foam up. Add the flour as soon as the foam starts to subside but before the butter starts to brown.
  5. With the burner on medium to medium low (4-5 out of 10 on my stove) mix flour and butter into a smooth paste with a wooden spoon. 
  6. Add cayenne, garlic powder and dry mustard. Stir to combine.
  7. Switch to a whisk and add the heavy cream whisking until smooth. The consistency will be a lot like papier-mache paste. Make sure to continuously scrape the corners and bottom to prevent lumps.
  8. Gradually add the milk, while whisking, in 1/2 cup increments until you have a smooth sauce base that coats the back of a spoon. There will be moments when you are certain that you have messed up and your sauce base is doomed to lumpy-ness but everything will be OK just so long as you keep whisking!
    1. You may need slightly more or less milk than called for. You want the sauce base to coat the back of a spoon and be almost a thick gravy consistency. If it seems too thick add milk a little at a time to thin.
  9. Once sauce base is at the right thickness reduce the heat to low and keep stirring, switching back to the wooden spoon. Start adding the cheese a handful at a time allowing each addition to melt into the sauce before adding more.
  10. Keep stirring making sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the pot.
  11. Once all of the cheese is added, taste and add salt as needed. Cheese can be very salty so how much salt you need depends on your taste. I added a good pinch to my sauce.
    1. At this point the sauce will have lumps of cheese in it depending on the type of cheese you selected. Lumps of cheese = good. Lumps of flour = bad.
  12. Add cooked noodles (which have been resting quietly in a colander) and stir to combine.
  13. Leave the burner on only long enough to warm up the noodles then turn the heat off.
  14. Serve immediately.
We ate the mac and cheese with BBQ pulled chicken that I made a few weeks earlier and stashed in the freezer. (I will post that recipe next) We had maybe two lunch size servings leftover after feeding four adults and three children.

It was especially awesome with the Kujo Imperial Coffee Stout from Flying Dog and ESB Amber Ale from Flying Fish that the DuBosar's brought.

PS: I lied. I took a photo with my phone of the leftover mac that I brought for lunch. The sauce breaks a bit when you microwave it but still tastes good.


  1. Woo-hoo! Acknowledgment about the number of pots used!
    (And the mac and cheese was one of the best.)

  2. To top off the one-pot version comes the one-cabinet version. All utensiles have to come from just one cabinet.