17 February 2008

Alton Brown

I've heard of the wonders of Alton Brown many times, but I've never made any of his recipes. From everything I've heard, Brown has the intensity of Martha Stewart in that he strives to find the best ways to do things, but he's down to earth and realizes that frou frou-gourmet isn't necessarily always the best. I appreciate people like that.

This week, one of the cooking clubs I'm a part of had Alton Brown's Baked Macaroni and Cheese as the recipe to make. As I looked at the ingredients, I could tell that this was a straight-forward recipe that would yield a great, flavorful dish. It deviated a bit from the recipe for the macaroni and cheese I usually have, but I like to try different variations for the sake of experimentation.

First you make a roux which consisted of butter, flour, and dried mustard powder, then I added the diced onions, paprika, and my addition of horseradish mustard and let it cook a bit before adding the milk. After the milk-mixture cooks a while and is thickened, I added the tempered egg, 3/4 of the cheddar cheese, and the kosher salt and coarse black pepper.

The important part about making baked pasta dishes is to take the pasta out of the water a bit before it's al dente, as it will continue to cook in the oven.

When making the breadcrumb topping, it's a good idea to use a big enough skillet... (Note to self...) You are looking for all the breadcrumbs to have a moistened, slightly clump-ish look to it. Don't add more butter, just keep mixing it around. (If I had better bread on hand, I would have used fresh bread crumbs.)

After placing the coated noodles in a casserole dish, sprinkle it first with the remaining cheese and then evenly coat with the bread crumbs.

Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

What's missing from this plate? Vegetables! But don't worry, I had a salad before this.

I used about five more ounces of dried pasta than the recipe called for, so it was less saucy than it otherwise would have been, but it still had enough so it wasn't dry. Next time, I'd use 10 ounces total of dry pasta. Other than that, this recipe had a wonderful flavor from the dried mustard, the hint of onions, and the sharp cheddar. It wasn't an intense cheesiness, but it was enough so that you knew what it was without questioning its authenticity.

What I liked most about it was the ease of preparation. Everyone came together smoothly and didn't take much time at all. Definitely a keeper!

A quick note about the other foods on the plate, I didn't make them. They were wonderful, though. The chicken breasts, which usually are reminiscent of sawdust, were wonderfully moist and had an amazing lemon taste that played well off the coating of chili sauce. The grain dish is a barley-rice mixture coated with some ingredients I'm not sure of exactly, but had golden raisins, rinsed black beans, sliced green onions, basil, salt... But it was an excellent grain salad that pairs well with just about everything.


  1. Yeah! Alton's way into the food science end of things, rather than the food myth. Of course, he's also really into all manner of foods which aren't on the menu for we vegetarians, but we forgive him. ;)

  2. Love Alton! The mac and cheese looks awesome!!!

  3. I love baked mac and cheese! Probably one of my favorite foods. This looks great.


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