CB’s Mac and Cheese
My favorite comfort food
Perfect for the Holiday season
For many years now, I’ve remarked that the holidays pass so fast one day it’s Halloween and a week later it’s New Years Day. When I had CB’s Caramel Company, this time of year proved extra busy and stressful. Filling orders, many of which would be shipped to different parts of the country, was no place for an old man like me. In the last blog, Raising Awareness-The Hunger Walk, I showed the effects of the supply chain that’s crippling so many industries. From restaurants to retail and beyond, prices have risen considerably making the running of a small business challenging at best. Everyone is feeling the pinch.
Despite all that, this is definitely my favorite time of the year. While Southern California doesn’t see the change of seasons like many parts of the world, we can count on a few days below 80 degrees F and possibly an inclement day or maybe even two. Any excuse to make some comfort food. What better than my famous Mac and Cheese. 25 years ago, or so, the LA Times put out an article on the best Mac and Cheese recipes in the city. They went to dozens of restaurants and sampled one of Americas favorite comfort foods. I kept that article and made them myself, creating a compilation recipe from the group and wound up with this. As a result, it has become tradition in my family to make during the holiday season.
So, the thing about this recipe is it yields a delicious, but very rich dish. However, it’s also very adaptable. Vegans can use vegan butter, all purpose flour, coconut milk and vegetable stock and vegan cheese. The seasonings are also interchangeable. So few mac and cheese recipes start with onions and garlic, which I have found is the game changer. Sauteing them in butter for a few minutes builds this foundation of flavor that is unmatched. The video shows the process and I added in a couple of scenes with Pat Boone just for fun. No relation to Mac and Cheese, I just loved working with that guy. Total class.
CB's Mac and Cheese
- Large saucepan or dutch oven
- grater for cheese
- 9x13 in oven safe dish or 3-quart dish
- wooden spoon
- measuring cups and spoons
- kosher salt
- 1 lb small elbow pasta (I mix it with small shells)
- 8 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 1/2 medium onion, small diced
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 2 cups whole milk for vegans, almond or any plant based milk
- 2 cups half and half or heavy cream for vegans, same as above
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 6 oz Gruyere, grated
- 6 oz Extra sharp Cheddar, grated
- 2 oz Parmesan cheese, grated
- 4 oz monterey jack
- 1/2 tsp white or black pepper, freshly ground
- 1/2 tsp ground mustard
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/4 cup pasta water, reserved
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
- 1 tsp your favorite hot or pepper sauce
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F
- To a large pot of boiling salted water and a little oil drizzled in, cook pasta according to the directions on the package, taking off 1 or 2 minutes to cook al dente. 6 to 8 minutes. Reserve about 1/4 cup pasta water and set aside before draining well.
- Meanwhile, grate cheese to desired amount. At least 2 cups to add to sauce and 1 cup to put on top.
- Heat the milk and half and half in a small saucepan, but don't boil it.
- In a large saucepan or dutch oven, melt butter and add diced onions over medium low to medium heat. Saute for 5 to 7 minutes until onions are translucent. Add chopped garlic the last 1 or 2 minutes. Stir.
- Add flour, cook over medium low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth.
- Add seasonings, Hot sauce, ground mustard, pepper, nutmeg and stir. Add reserved pasta water. Stir.
- Off the heat, add at least 2 cups of the cheeses. Stir. Add the cooked macaroni and stir well. Fold the macaroni into the cheese sauce. combine thoroughly and pour into a 3-quart baking dish. Top with remaining cheese.
- Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on top. Allow to cool slightly before serving. The cheese can burn the roof of your mouth.
- To freeze: Allow to come to room temperature before wrapping tightly in plastic wrap and placing in a zip lock bag or airtight container. Keeps well frozen for 2 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
I want to say a special ‘thank you’ to those who participated in this years Hunger Walk. The goal of 100K was exceeded by 10%, meaning over 440,000 meals will go to those in need this holiday season and beyond. Donations of any amount are always appreciated. Click the link wsfb.donatenow to make a contribution. Thank you so much to all of you. I hope you try this recipe as well. It’s a can’t miss. Enjoy.