Friday, February 19, 2010

Weekend Recipe: Maverick Mac and Cheese

I must confess right off this recipe has nothing to do with the Maverick Saloon. I just couldn’t resist using this picture of a great little place full of history in Santa Ynez, California, a tiny super-Western town once part of a historic stage coach route, now surrounded by ranchland, California live oaks, vineyards and olive groves.

The saloon itself hosts country singers every weekend, and visitors tack dollar bills on the ceiling. Sure hope the place never burns down. There’s a fortune up thar.

Some years ago, I got this recipe from my friend Nancy, a Nebraska native. I’m worshipped by my family when I serve it and am adored on our cul-de-sac whenever I bring it to block parties. Someday I think I’ll kick things up a notch and use pepperjack cheese. As they say on Top Chef: Enjoy!

You need:

1 pound elbow macaconi

8 tablespoons (one stick) plus 1 tablespoon (one pat) butter or margarine

1 cup shredded mild Cheddar cheese (or 1/2 cup mild, 1/2 cup Muenster)

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar (or 1/2 cup sharp, 1/2 cup Jack)

2 cups half-and-half ( I use fat-free version. Why, I dunno, considering all the cheese.)

1 cup (8 oz) Velveeta, cut into cubes

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper. (I’m a pepper junkie so I use WAY more than 1/8 teaspoon.)

Optional: 1/2 cup bread crumbs sauteed in butter to scatter over the top before baking.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter or PAM a deep 2 1/2 quart casserole.

Bring large pot of salted water to a boil, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and cook macaroni until tender, about 7 minutes. Drain well and return to pot.

In small saucepan, melt 8 ounces of the butter and stir into the mac. In a large bowl mix the shredded cheeses. To the mac, add the half-and-half, 1 1/2 cups of the shredded cheeses, the cubed Velveeta, and the eggs.

Mix well and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer to the casserole. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of shredded cheeses and dot with one tablespoon of butter. Add optional bread crumbs which I highly recommend.

Bake until bubbly around the edges, maybe 35 minutes. Serves about 6.

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