In my last apartment, I went through a phase where I was making a dish of baked mac every night. I shit you not. My obsession with finding a perfect recipe consumed me. With homemade macaroni and cheese there is a clear line between cheesy and creamy. It's either one or the other. What Kraft foods knows so well is that processed cheese melts creamy with the flavor we crave. Deli cheese, on the other hand, melts stringy, sets up hard, and looses most of its flavor in the heat. So you see it doesn't meld well with the creamy bits. Of course, cheesy is always better than creamy and not flavorful. Always.
After following several links, I landed up at Smitten Kitchen where she prepared a New York Times recipe for baked mac that she deemed wonderful. My verdict? Very good. Still, it's not completely spot on. Flavor-wise, this is fabulous. Yet, it did was regular cheese does and got rubbery- even right out of the oven. It definitely fell on the cheesy side of the fence despite the cottage cheese's best efforts. Did that stop me from eating almost all of it in one sitting? Absolutely not. A few dashes of smoked paprika on the top completed my entire meal. I will say though that the cheese I used (Winn-Dixie brand extra sharp) gave it a slightly funky taste. It had an undercurrent of blue refrigerator mold. Not enough to kill it, but... spice it. Nevertheless, if you're in the mood, this is definitely a good recipe.
Creamy Macaroni and Cheese
New York Times
Julia Molskin 1/4/06
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup cottage cheese (not low-fat)
2 cups milk (not skim)
1 teaspoon dry mustard
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound sharp or extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 pound elbow pasta, uncooked
1. Heat oven to 375 F and position an oven rack in upper third of oven. Use 1 tablespoon butter to butter a 9-inch round or square baking pan.
2. In a blender, puree cottage cheese, milk, mustard, cayenne, nutmeg, salt and pepper together.* Reserve 1/4 cup grated cheese for topping. In a large bowl, combine remaining grated cheese, milk mixture and uncooked pasta. Pour into pan, cover with foil. Bake 30 minutes.
3. Uncover pan, stir, sprinkle with reserved cheese and dot with remaining tablespoon butter. Bake uncovered 30 minutes more, until browned.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings.
* I followed her tip on blending the cottage cheese first (until it was the consistency of yogurt) and gradually adding the milk. No lumps.