Photographs: Becky Luigart-Stayner • Food Styling: Ana Kelly
August 18, 2016
This Super-Creamy Mac and Cheese recipe from the Eats cookbook brings me right back to the happy, carefree days of my childhood, which was filled with mac and cheese.
When I was growing up, mac and cheese was my favorite dish. Mind you, this was mac and cheese … from a box. What did I know? I thought that was as delicious and gourmet as it got! Then I learned how to make it from the box myself and thought I was a chef.
I’ve learned better since and no longer make the stuff from a box. I’ve taken a stab at several different recipes, trying to find that perfect one, but to no avail. Then, I made a decision almost a year ago to become a vegan. That meant no more mac and cheese. I had already given up on trying to find the perfect recipe, so it wasn’t that big of a loss anyway.
You know that saying, “It will come to you when you aren’t looking for it”? I had given up cheese and milk and butter, so of course—wouldn’t you know?—that perfect and magical recipe I had been looking for fell right into my lap: Super. Creamy. Mac and cheese. Wow.
The Perfect Mac and Cheese Recipe
As part of my job, I was asked to film a video tutorial on creating this particular dish (I know, tough job). As I did it, several thoughts (in order) went through my head: 1. I can film this video without having to eat the dish. No problem. 2. What if this is THE recipe I’ve been looking for? 3. Maybe I’ll have just one bite, just to check. 4. No one is perfect.
Well, I did film that video. I decided to go “chegan” that day (cheating vegan) and have a bite. I am not perfect, nor am I a perfect vegan, but I tell you what is perfect: this recipe. I have finally found it. I could hear the angel chorus sing and the doves fly around me as the glitter sprinkled from the skies.
Note: I used vegetable broth instead of chicken stock.
Super-Creamy Mac and Cheese
(from page 16 of the Eats cookbook)
½ pound elbow noodles
1 teaspoon olive oil
6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter, divided
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk, divided
1 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 cups shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
3 ounces cream cheese, in pieces, softened
¾ to 1 cup fine cracker crumbs or panko bread crumbs
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a large casserole.
Prepare the noodles according to the package directions. Drain, transfer to a large bowl, drizzle with oil, and toss to avoid clumping.
Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat, add the onion, and cook for 5 minutes, or until soft. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute more, stirring. Add 1 cup of milk and stir. As the sauce thickens, add the remaining 1 cup of milk. Bring to a simmer. Add the chicken stock and heat gently for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the mustard, salt, and pepper, to taste. Add the cheddar cheese, 1 cup at a time, and stir. Add more as it melts. Add the cream cheese and stir until melted.
Pour the sauce over the noodles and stir to coat. Transfer the mixture to the casserole. Sprinkle with cracker crumbs to cover evenly.
Melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter in a pan over low heat and drizzle over the crumbs. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until bubbly.