Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Hump-Day Quickie with Extra Cheese: Baked Macaroni and Cheese!

It's been a while since we've had a hump-day quickie, and today we're making up for it with... cheese!

Fricken delicious cheese.
And some noodles in it as well. But mostly, it's cheese.

Baked Macaroni
Noodles (I like egg noodles the best- they hold the cheese better than anything else)
Shredded cheese

Cook the noodles softer than you usually like them to make up for the drying they'll get in the oven. When they're done, don't coat them in oil, butter, etc- if you do, the cheese won't stick but sink to the bottom of the pan.
Heat oven to 350°. Grease a baking dish* really well. 
Scatter a thin layer of noodles into the pan. Sprinkle some cheese on top. Repeat until you've put everything in.
 Make the cheese layers thicker as you get toward the top to compensate for how some of it will sink down as it melts, and put a really thick layer of cheese on top so the top noodles don't dry out.
Bake until it's hot and bubbly- I usually do 20 minutes. It'll be easier to lift out neatly if you let it sit out for a bit when it's done.

*It really doesn't matter what you use- if you like it with lots of crispy brown cheese on top, you can get out a broad shallow pan. If you like it really soft, you can use one where you'll have it stacked more deeply. You can use one of those small glass food storage containers and make them individual, or you can make a massive pan, or...

Well, the instructions ended up longer than I thought they'd be, but as you can see, this is really fricken easy. And everyone I know likes it a lot-- because, duh, macaroni and cheese! For last year's Thanksgiving potluck at the dorm, I asked my friend working the desk what she'd like me to bring as I was putting my name on the signup sheet taped to the counter- she immediately said "Baked macaroni and cheese!" And the pan was emptied really quick.
Plus, like a lot of the hump-day quickies, there aren't even measurements. Behold, the ingredients!
I think for this one my camera went past lousy and straight to artistic.

Yep, that pot of slightly overdone noodles and shredded cheese is all that's going into this. Obviously, you can add a lot of other things to this as well- I often add paprika to each layer. Or cut-up leftover meat. Or--- you get the idea.
And if you're just sticking to noodles and cheese, you can still put in whatever types of cheeses you like. I'm using some cheddar and pepper jack I found in the fridge for this one. If your cheese is sliced, then this will be even easier since all you have to do is lay slices down on top of each layer of noodles.
I'm posting this because a few people I know think a baked macaroni is really hard and if they didn't have the boxed kits, macaroni and cheese would be beyond them. I've seen recipes that involve making cream sauces in double boilers, making a roux, or other things that run from tricky to bothersome. While I'm sure those recipes are nice, if you can do this:

And then this:

And just keep repeating it until you run out of noodles:

Then you can make a baked macaroni and cheese!
Yes, I baked it in a pot. It was just the right size.

And now, doing my low-budget attempt at imitating those fancy day-lit food porn photos, here it is!
I even got out the patterned china.

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