The other day, Ted mentioned that it might be fun to try the original Macaroni and Cheese, the kind that Thomas Jefferson brought to America from France. I’m a big fan of Mac & Cheese. I even like the Kraft stuff, though my favorite is the White Cheddar box. I tried to make homemade Mac & Cheese once before, and it was a disaster. The problem was that I didn’t use a recipe, and I didn’t understand the dynamics of M&C, so I just cooked some noodles, melted some cheese, and mixed. Gloppy, disgusting mess. Luckily, my audience that time was 7 year olds, and they didn’t care.
So this time, I went online and did a search for ‘Jefferson’s Macaroni & Cheese’, and came across this video and recipe. The web page doesn’t have any directions, just ingredients and video, so we had to work from that.
Macaroni and Cheese
- 1 lb elbow macaroni
- 3-4 cups of grated sharp Cheddar cheese, or whatever
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1/4 tsp dried thyme
- 1/4 tsp cayenne
- 1/8 tsp white pepper
- 1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp salt
- pinch of nutmeg (preferably freshly grated from a nut)
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 3 cups milk
- 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs plus 1 tbsp butter
Melt butter in a heavy pot over medium heat. When it begins to foam, add flour and mix into a roux. Cook for about three minutes to cook away the flour taste. Add thyme, cayenne, and white pepper. Then add one cup of cold milk, and whisk together until smooth. Add remaining two cups of milk, Worcestershire sauce, salt, nutmeg, and Dijon mustard. Simmer over low heat about 8 minutes, until base thickens nicely.
Remove from heat, then stir in all but 3/4 cup of cheese, and stir until melted. Pour noodles into a casserole dish, then pour cheese mixture over noodles. Stir to combine.
Mix Panko breadcrumbs with melted butter. Top macaroni with remaining 3/4 cup of cheese, then with Panko topping. Bake in 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes, until browned and crunchy. Cool for a few minutes, then eat and enjoy the cheesy yumminess.
The video had a few tips. First, while the guy in the video used a combination of cheeses, he suggested that you use only Sharp Cheddar, because that’s what Jefferson used (he said Jefferson used Vermont Cheddar, specifically). He used a combination of Cheddar, Gouda, and Gruyere. We looked around the cheese table at our local grocery, and settled on a combination of Vermont Cheddar and Gruyere.
The second tip had to do with consistency. If you like your M&C gooey and dripping with cheese, use 1/2 lb of noodles. If you want it a little drier and lighter, use 1 lb of noodles. Or anywhere in between. We decided to cook the whole pound, and then we just used however much would fit in our pretty casserole dish. I’d say we used about 12 or 13 oz.
Gotta say, this Macaroni and Cheese was amazingly yummy. Far better than any box mix. So, thanks Mr. Jefferson. We appreciate you going all of the way to Paris to bring this recipe home to us.