You can call this recipe Baked Macaroni and Cheese, or you can call it How to Make Friends in the New Year.
I made it during the break, when I was at the cottage cooking for a crowd that ran from 5 to 20 people, their ages spanning 4 to 70 years.
I enjoy cooking for large groups. I find it easier than cooking for a few people because I usually just make one big baked or barbecued main dish, side it with a salad, and let somebody else worry about dessert. (For instance, my sister-in-law Deborah's key lime meringue pie was a huge hit this season.)
It's times like these that my baked macaroni and cheese comes in handy.
It's kid friendly, veggie friendly, and for all of those lactose intolerants out there; well, pop a few Lactaid pills then join the rest of us digging into hot, cheesy glory.
You can make this recipe rich, or not quite as opulent. For the milk I can go as low as 1% and for the cream, as low as 5% and it still tastes as if Midas got his mitts into it.
If you want it truly decadent use whole milk and half & half cream -- but then be sure to call your doctor in the morning.
And I shouldn't be the one telling you that when you've got a recipe like this one, with just a handful of ingredients, it really comes down to personal taste and using the very best from your pantry.
In other words, this is the time to leave the Cracker Barrel on the store shelf and to break out the Balderson's.
BAKED MACARONI AND CHEESE
1 lb dried elbow macaroni
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
3 cups 2% milk
1 cup half & half cream
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
cracked black pepper
1 lb sharp cheddar cheese, grated (1 cup reserved)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a large baking dish and set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the macaroni until just before al dente.
Drain well and put back into the pot off of the heat. Stir in melted butter, covering every elbow. Stir in milk, cream, mustard and salt and pepper. Toss in all but one cup of the grated cheese and stir well.
Bake uncovered in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Remove from oven, sprinkle with remaining cup of cheese and broil in oven until top is lightly browned.