Monday, April 4, 2011

A Long way to make Mac & Cheese...

Not really "long", but more involved than Kraft-in-a-box or even homemade using noodles!

Step One:

Making Egg Crepe "noodles"!

For these, I just whip eggs in a large bowl with a little salt & pepper, just like you make scrambled eggs for breakfast, but don't put cream in them (just use eggs)!  For a dessert, I'd replace the S&P with a little Splenda...and maybe keep in a little Salt.

Lightly butter (or spray) your flattest skillet.  Mine is a bright yellow 8" fry pan from the Rachel Ray line (I love this pan to death and it gets used at least twice a day every day!), it has a nice heavy bottom and isn't warped (like most of my pans)!  Then just add a little egg to the pan when it's hot...just like making crepes, barely cover the bottom of the pan with egg.  For a full recipe, I use 8 eggs and get between 8 and 10 crepes, I made 12 eggs this time and got 13 crepes (I put 5 in the fridge for sandwich style roll ups).  The eggs only need 30 to 60 seconds on the first side and even less on the second (15 to 20 seconds)...just enough to cook the egg, you don't need them super brown!

To make the crepes (I use these for Sandwiches, as noodle replacement, burrito shells, even as a dessert with a little whipped cream wrapped in them) into noodles, we bust out our pizza cutter!  A few swipes across and you have noodles!  I made smaller than normal noodles this time...normally we cut them in half one direction and then into strips at a 90 degree angle to the first cut.  I'm not usually the one doing the cutting though, lol.

Step Two:

Brown the meat!

We usually use Hillshire Farms Lil' Smokies, cut into quarters or fifths (depending on the mood of my "helper"), but Hamburger, chicken, tuna (if you actually like Tuna casserole), any other sausage would all make excellent choices as well.  This night's meal though was a "normal" night for Beef Lil' Smokies it was (we had the Cheddar ones a few nights before)!  We cook the entire package for this recipe (makes about 6 servings) and I brown them to nearly black...we like them that way (or rather I do and my other half never complains about it)!  After they were sufficiently browned, I put them in a paper towel lined bowl to help soak up a little of the grease.  This dish is fairly greasy with all the cheese, butter, and meat, draining a little off helps!

Step 3:

The sauce!

This one calls for 4 cups (1 quart) of cream.  I don't bother measuring...I just dump the whole quart in the biggest sauce pan I have (an 8 quart, I think)!  You really need the room, you need to bring this to a boil and keep it there for 10 minutes!  And Whipping cream really foams up when it's boiling, so watch it!  It's easy to control with a whisk...just stir it every time the bubbles look like they may be overtaking the pan soon.  The 4 cups of cream need to reduce by half to around 2 cups, as long as you start timing it after the cream comes to a boil, it should be done in 10 minutes.  Don't start timing early though! 

Before the timer finishes, I add in a little Chili Powder (recipe I started with calls for Cayenne) and Nutmeg, we don't like anything too spicy, so I use about equal amounts.  Just whisk this in and let the timer run out.

Next, add cheese!  Straight from our freezer, I brought up a bag of Medium Cheddar and one of Mexican (a spicier one).  One full bag and half of the other bag go into the sauce, save the other half bag to go on top!  Even being frozen going into the sauce, it makes a beautiful cheese sauce at this point!  Serve just like this with meats (pre-cooked) and Veggies for dipping!  But, since we're making mac & cheese...we must continue on!

Next I add the browned meat in...this can be "beaten up" in the mixing, so no need to switch utensils yet!  Get your meat good and mixed now, when we add the noodles, we need to be gentle and I switch to the spatula at this point (already "dirty" from making the crepes).  Once everything is good and covered in cheese sauce, pour it into a 9x13 baking dish that you've coated in butter (keeps the cheese from sticking).  Even it out and top with remaining cheese!

I cook mine at 350, time varies by the night but I start my timer at 25 minutes.  This one took 35 minutes in the oven.  After it's done, let it sit for 5 or more minutes to cool and "set".  All that hot cheese is pretty runny!  This is very filling too, without a side of any kind (I get lazy) this makes 6 my-size servings...but this time around, it made one for me, one for my other half, and one for his lunch on Monday...I should have made a veggie side to help fill him up!

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