November 16, 2020. I never really thought of mac and cheese as a Thanksgiving side dish, but, apparently when we lived down south I should have. According to nerdist.com, the Thanksgiving Gold Coast of mac and cheese runs from Delaware to Georgia. So, in honor of our time in the south, I give you this mac and cheese recipe.
Now, I’ve made mac and cheese in a variety of ways- roux based, cream based, sodium citrate based, everything but the kitchen sink based (eggs, half and half, heavy cream, sour cream, etc) and this is the perfect starter recipe and the recipe that gives you the most bang for your buck in my humble and correct opinion- easy to remember, cook and eat! And how lucky are you that all you have to remember is the number 7 and four main ingredients. That’s 7 ounce of each ingredient- pasta, flavorful liquid, evaporated milk and cheese.
As for toppings, we are a house divided between purists, who just want more melted cheese or nothing on top and those of us who prefer a crunchy contrast. What we have here, is something for everyone. Since the toppings are added, the purist can avoid them, and not only are the toppings easily added for the Crunch Fans, they are added in the most exciting and intriguing of ways! Just spin the Chip Dust Roulette wheel and whatever mystery crunchy topping lands in front of you, is the topping for your mac and cheese!
Chip Dust Roulette is an homage to the Secret Snack game we sometimes played when you were younger. I would have three “secret snacks”, in small covered dishes, waiting to be revealed when you arrived home from school. The idea was to get you excited about trying new foods- two containers would have new foods that I was reasonably sure you would like (star fruit and plantain chips, for example) and one container would have a food that was a bit more of a risk (like boquerones- that one didn’t go so well). It was good fun that opened your minds and mouths to flavors beyond chicken nuggets and Kraft mac and cheese- not that there’s anything wrong with chicken nuggets and Kraft mac and cheese.
Prep Time: 7 minutes
Cook Time: 7 minutes
Servings: 7+7+7+7/7 (sorry, I needed to use math to keep with the theme)
Get Your Stuff Out
- 7 ounces elbow macaroni
- 7 ounces milk or water
- 7 ounces evaporated milk
- 7 ounces total shredded American, sharp cheddar, pepper jack and/or fontina cheese or whatever’s in your cheese drawer if, in fact, you have a cheese drawer- you should!
- 7 or more hits/shakes of your favorite hot sauce
- 7 small bags of chips from a Variety Pack. You really only need one bag of chips for each serving, but I’m trying to keep with the 7 theme here.
Cook and Play
- Add 7 ounces elbow macaroni and 7 ounces milk to a medium sized saucepan. The liquid should just cover the pasta, so add more or less milk, or even water, as needed.
- Simmer and frequently stir pasta over medium heat until pasta is just shy of al dente and most of the milk has become one with the pasta, about 7 minutes.
- Stir in 7 ounces evaporated milk, 7 ounces total shredded American, sharp cheddar, pepper jack and/or fontina cheese and about 7 hits/shakes of your favorite hot sauce until everything looks creamy, which should be almost immediately.
- If you want to go the extra mile, or kilometer for our Canadian friends, preheat your broiler to high, with a rack about 12” from the broiler, then pour the mac and cheese into a medium sized baking dish, cover in a layer of more cheese and broil until the top cheesy layer is golden brown and delicious. You could also garnish with sliced jalapenos or scallions for a bit of color if you like- I did. Serve with chips as described below in “Chip Dust Roulette”!
Chip Dust Roulette. Pick a small bag of chips for each diner, open each bag and crush up those chips. Pour the crushed chips into individual small bowls, cover and place on a Lazy Susan that you will put in the middle of your table. Take your seats, give that Lazy Susan a spin and whichever Chip Dust lands closets to a diner is the topping for that diner’s mac and cheese- how fun is that? Lots of fun!. You may want to swap out one chip dust for a booby prize, like minced ghost peppers, to make the meal more interesting, but that’s up to you. If you don’t have a Lazy Susan, and you should because they are fun, you can assign a number to each topping bowl and pick numbers out of a hat- you could even do it “Yankee Swap” style if you want- the possibilities are only limited by your imagination.
Veganize It. Good news bad news. The good news- there are a multitude of vegan chips for Chip Dust Roulette. The bad news- it will probably take me until next Thanksgiving to come up with a vegan mac and cheese recipe I would want to pass along as my own. In the meantime, detoxinista.com and cookiesandkate.com have popular vegan versions.
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