From the Culinary Underground: Mac ‘n Cheese Experience

[This is the latest in an ongoing guest series brought to you by Southborough’s Culinary Underground. In this installment, Chef Lori shares a recipe for Easy Mac ‘n Cheese that kids can cook.

Note: I didn’t get a chance to post this in October. Today, this comfort food recipe seems like a great activity for all the school kids trapped inside on a snow day too cold for building snowmen.

Don’t have kids? That’s OK, it’s a yummy guilty pleasure for grown ups, too.]

[This fall,] I participated in fire safety event hosted by a local bank. October is fire safety month, and, since the topic was all about begin fire-safe in the kitchen, I was ask to come buy.

This issue is almost as important as knife safety – there’s nothing worse than a student with no eyebrows (usually the result of too-enthusiastic flambéing). And with so many kids coming through our kitchen, we can’t be having their hair going up in flames and such. This is one of the reasons I installed induction cooktops in the CU kitchen – so much safer. But less fun and dramatic which is why we also have a gas cooktop; see “flambéing”, above).

Although most kitchen fires are greets fires, burns can often be from simple, ol’ steam, so I don’t like having kids drain huge pots of boiling water. And I want them to have recipes they can make themselves, without too much adult supervision.

So, for the cooking demo today, I went with a recipe that we like to teach the kids because it doesn’t require a big pot of boiling water to cook the pasta. You simple simmer the water and pasta in a big, covered skillet, add a simple sauce and cheese, and stir. It’s almost as easy as Kraft Macs’ n Cheese (the gold standard), but light-years ahead in flavor and texture.

A couple of tricks here. Evaporated milk is a must; since it’s precooked, it won’t curdle like fresh milk, and you won’t taste any difference. The recipe calls for Cheddar cheese – white or orange – but I like to mix it up by adding a little pepper Jack or Parmesan. I also throw in a wedge of Laughing Cow or Velveeta, too; processed cheese has stabilizers that prevent real cheese from stiffening up and getting hard. You don’t need much – even a slice of deli American cheese will do.

The kids love this, not only because of the cheesy, creamy goodness but also because they can make it themselves – as long as you’re keeping a weather eye on things.

Easy Macaroni and Cheese
(4 servings)

2 Cups uncooked elbow macaroni
2 Cups hot water
1 teaspoon salt
12-ounce can evaporated milk
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard, optional
2 Cups shredded cheddar or other cheese
Salt and pepper to taste 

In a 12” skillet or sauté pan, combine macaroni, water, and salt. Bring to a boil over MEDIUM-HIGH heat; lower heat and simmer 8-10 minutes. Test for doneness; if the pasta is still a little too hard, cover and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes, adding a bit more hot water if mixture is too dry.

Uncover pan; if there is still a little water left, increase heat and let the water boil away, uncovered.

Whisk together eggs, milk, and dry mustard and add to the pasta. Stir, then add the cheese. Cook, stirring, on LOW heat for 3-5 minutes.

Taste; adjust seasonings by adding salt and pepper. Serve now!

Culinary Underground School for Home Cooks is committed to furthering the art and craft of home cooking through engaging and educational hands-on and demonstrations classes. Using the best seasonal ingredients, mastering techniques, minimizing prep, and maximizing flavor are the focus of their classes. For more information and a class schedule, visit culinaryunderground.com.

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