as a kid, like many of us, i’m sure, i would kill for a bowl of kraft macaroni and cheese. my korean mom didn’t grow up with it, and surely was horrified by it, but she loyally made it for me growing up. in fact, she packed a number of boxes of it for our 2 month trip to korea when i was five years old, surprising my little brother and me with it, since we missed “american” food.
once i got older, and had some disposable income, i upgraded my mac & cheese choice to annie’s. i used to get the orange boxes of cheddar and shells, but then i think they must have hired someone who REALLY understands mac & cheese, because while the cheddar and shells were elegant and delicious, i did miss the bright orange (read: artificial) cheese sauce and the tube shaped noodles. there is just something about the way the sauce gets in there. and while my husband and i argue over the tube noodles vs. the shells, i have to admit, it’s a tasty step up from kraft.
at some point, i realized, i should learn how to make these foods–not just “make” them (ie: add milk, butter and stir the cheese sauce powder in). and that’s where beecher’s comes in. beecher’s is a local cheese maker located in the historic market near my home. they have large vats of cheese and one can stop on the sloped sidewalk outside the shop and look in the windows to see the cheese being made. you can buy the cheese, now-a-days, in almost any grocery store around the area. they have delicious varieties of artisan cheese, but also a delicious selection of cheese curds, in particular, marinated in herbs and olive oil, which sustained me through my bout of gestational diabetes.
they also happen to make something known as the “world’s best macaroni and cheese,” which they sell out of their shop, piping hot, rich, gooey, and delicious. and now, this too, is available at local grocers, frozen. so, as you can see, i didn’t have a lot of motivation to learn to make a decent mac & cheese, with so many awesome choices at my fingertips.
one thing, though, the beecher’s mac & cheese is a little spendy — and my extra cash, these days, gets frittered away on things like diapers, wipes, and a never-ending array of baby accessories. and, additionally, another baby-related decision (the one where we have trouble trying to leave the house to be social) prompted an invitation to good friends of ours for dinner. and these friends happen to be big mac & cheese fans too. particularly beecher’s. and what could be better than red wine and mac & cheese on a nasty, cold, winter’s day?
so i had seen on pinterest a “beecher’s cheese sauce” recipe, which i had pinned who-knows-how-long-ago. i love pinterest. it’s great for new moms because we can express a sense of what we like and what we would like to do, without having to actually remember to do it now (or ever). so i spend some time surfing, pinning things that i hope i’ll do one day. so, i thought, why not start now?
i am happy to report that the cheese sauce turned out really quite well (as my friends can attest). and, i have to say, it was almost as easy as the kind out of the box…no joke! i mean, once you shred all the cheese (but that’s what family is for, right? i put my husband on cheese duty), you boil noodles, melt butter (and make a quick rue), add the milk, and the cheese, then add noodles! if you want to be fancy (and oh, we did), you can top with more cheese, or bread crumbs, and bake. we shaved on parmigiana cheese and baked the whole thing. we left a pitcher of hot cheese sauce on the side for people to add more, if they wanted.
so, now i’m a mom, and my kid is bound to like mac & cheese. i’m sure we’ll have our fair share of kraft, annie’s, and other boxed stuff, but at least i can say i can make it from scratch! and maybe my little one will like my homemade stuff best. though, as luck would have it, i imagine nothing can beat a bowl of kraft in the eyes of a little boy.
- ¼ cup unsalted butter (½ stick)
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 cups milk
- 14 ounces Beecher’s Flagship Cheese, grated (about 3 ½ cups)
- 2 ounces Beecher’s Just Jack cheese, grated (½ cup)
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ -½ teaspoon chipotle chili powder
- 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat and whisk in the flour. Continue whisking and cook for 2 minutes.
Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly. Cook until the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat.
Add the cheese, salt, chili powder, and garlic powder. Stir until the cheese is melted and all the ingredients are incorporated, about 3 minutes. Use immediately or refrigerate for up to 3 days.
Makes about 4 cups
Note: This sauce reheats nicely on the stove in a saucepan over low heat. Stir frequently so the sauce doesn’t scorch.