I had a craving for macaroni and cheese today. I’m sure it was prompted by a conversation with a friend yesterday about side dishes and one of the ones we talked about was mac and cheese. When I started thinking about what to have for dinner (this morning and not ten minutes before it’s time to eat as is usually the case!), I knew we’d have the chicken I had thawed out yesterday that we didn’t eat last night. (We decided to indulge in our monthly all you can eat shrimp at a local restaurant instead). But, what to fix to go with that chicken? Potatoes, rice, green beans, broccoli…these are my usual go to’s. Standing there looking at my pantry, trying to decide what to fix, my eyes settled on the box of elbow macaroni. YES! I was pretty sure I had all of the ingredients. Mac and cheese, the ultimate comfort food. As it turned out, I was a little short on milk but had some whipping cream that I used to make up the difference. I was also a little short on the amount of cheese I needed to make it awesome, but enough to make it good.
I’m not talking about just any old mac and cheese that you can get anywhere. Nope, I’m talking about honest to goodness, homemade mac and cheese. The kind my Nanny makes. The died and gone to heaven one that you get at family reunions. The one that comes in a baking dish and bubbles and smells soooo good while it’s cooking that your mouth waters and you can’t wait for it to cool before taking a bite.
This is the only kind of macaroni and cheese I make. I was a teenager before I had macaroni and cheese out of a box at a friend’s house. I honestly didn’t know how to act when it was served because it was nothing like the mac and cheese I had eaten all of my life. But, it was good. Not bad at all, really. But, not what I would consider real mac and cheese. Because it just wasn’t what I was use to. Please don’t get me wrong-I don’t think there’s anything at all wrong with even the store brand of mac and cheese (although we all KNOW that the name brand is better!). For me, it just boils down to personal preference and I prefer my mac and cheese baked from scratch.
When my son was a toddler, he stayed at an in home daycare with a wonderful lady that took great care of him. She fed him lunch and snacks every day and always gave me a report on what he had eaten when I picked him up. One day, she told me he had eaten two helpings of mac and cheese and a hot dog for lunch. Great!, he’s always had a good appetite. But, wait a minute…he didn’t like mac and cheese!! And, believe me, I had tried many times to give it to him because it was a favorite at our house. When I asked her what kind of mac and cheese (and could she show me the brand), imagine my surprise when she pulled out the local store brand box. I could have saved myself a lot of time by using that instead of boiling noodles, grating cheese, and getting my kitchen all hot by turning on the oven to bake MY mac and cheese.
Okay, all honesty here, it’s not MY mac and cheese. It’s my Nanny’s recipe and one of the first ones I asked for when I got married and started cooking for my own family. It is SO good y’all. My cousin says that if she shows up at a potluck without it, she’s sent home and not allowed to come back until she’s made a pan of it. We don’t have the whole big shebang dinners at Nanny’s house like we use to but one of the dishes we do have is mac and cheese. I’m off to sample it now that it’s cool enough to eat without burning my mouth. Enjoy!
MACARONI AND CHEESE
8 oz package of elbow macaroni
8-10 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
1 egg, beaten
4 ounces sour cream
½ stick butter
2 cups milk
Cook macaroni until tender and drain. Add butter and salt. Stir well until butter is melted. Add sour cream and egg. Stir. Add milk and stir in cheese. Pour into baking dish and bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until firm. Optional: sprinkle paprika over the top of the macaroni mixture before baking for added color.