Back to Basics: Mac-n-Cheese

I have a confession to make. I love boxed macaroni and cheese. Within 10 minutes I can enjoy a strangely orange with unnaturally small noodles goop. I’m not even picky about the brand – Kraft, Hannaford, Annie’s. I’ll eat them all. I’ll eat them all and enjoy it! I will however, from time to time, make homemade mac-n-cheese. I make a cheesy white sauce, I cook some noodles, I combine them and then it bakes for a half hour. It’s a bit time consuming, so I don’t make it often.

One night I was stuck. I had the chicken taken care of, and veggies all ready to stir fry, but being the carb lover that I am, I needed that one more thing. Cooking at Home with Bridget and Julia had just what I needed. The recipe was Stovetop Mac and Cheese, and it saved me.

Bridget Lancaster and Julia Collin Davison have years of cooking experience with America’s Test Kitchen and they both began working as test cooks at Cook’s Illustrated in the late 1990s and now they host the nationally aired America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Country. Cooking at Home with Bridget and Julia includes 150 recipes that Bridget or Julia personally connect with. The cookbook has numerous pictures, clear instructions, and ingredients that are not difficult to find. I have found, with America’s Test Kitchen cookbooks, that something about their cookbook presentation alleviates my fear of being in the kitchen.

(As an aside – I didn’t know anything about America’s Test Kitchen until I saw their Perfect Cake cookbook. So, in case you’re like me, America’s Test Kitchen is based in Boston and they produce podcasts, cooking magazines, cookbooks, and a TV show that airs nation wide on public television.)

I had all the ingredients on hand, so, I grated the cheese, put the chicken in the oven, made the stove top mac and cheese, and stir fried the veggies. The mac and cheese was a little soupy , but it thickened up quickly the last few minutes the chicken needed to bake. There was some mac n cheese left over and that baked up nicely the next day. This method was so much quicker, and the quality was as good as, perhaps even better, than my regular recipe. I will play with the spices a little more next time, but my high-schooler was happy, and he being my mac and cheese connoisseur, if he said it was good, I knew I had done it right.