Sunday, March 13, 2011

Mac and Cheese and Cheese and Cheese and Cheese (and happiness)

I'm so full.

So full that my tummy, which I've been working so hard to flatten, is pooching. In a happy, macaroni and cheese-laden pooch. In a pooch I will afford few foods other than Mama Steph's Macaroni and Cheese.

Let me start by saying I am a self-proclaimed mac-and-cheese connoisseur. My great friend in college, Kathy Kane (nee' Walker), and I used to fashion Velveeta Shells N Cheese in my Hot Pot on Tuesdays when our schedules both forced us to miss the dining hall and forage for our own lunch. While perhaps shells and cheese from a box is not the optimal recipe, we felt quite accomplished at ages 19 and 20.  But it didn't end there.

I've never stopped my quest for the PERFECT Macaroni and Cheese recipe.


A few months ago, Mama Steph, aka, Stephanie Hill Frazier, shared her recipe for "Creamy, Incredible Macaroni and Cheese." Almost as soon as I read the recipe, I suspected it was a winner. It wasn't just the recipe I had faith in; it was Stephanie herself. I only met her...oh, a year ago or so....Cathy Primer Krafve, a friend and freelance writer for my publication, IN Magazine, brought me to  a social media seminar hosted by  social media marketing guru Todd Hinkie of The Thinkie Group at The Potpourrri House in Tyler.

Steph was sitting on the sidelines, but Tweeting and Facebook posting the proceeds of our seminar in real time. And she has a SMILE that can infuse a room with warmth. I think I only met her briefly that day, but I've come to regard her as an expert and a friend. She is the kind of person you HAVE to love automatically, because she is kind and good and generous and sweet and has the most GIVING spirit. And she cooks like no other!

So when she posted her recipe for "Creamy Incredible Macaroni and Cheese," I knew I had to try it. IMMEDIATELY.

And I was not disappointed.

In fact, I can definitively say that it is my FAVORITE MAC AND CHEESE recipe of ALL TIMES.

I was telling some friends about it yesterday at a Gladewater church's "Reflections of a Godly Woman" luncheon. They all asked for the recipe. And I felt compelled to scrub my dinner plans for this evening to create a menu around Steph's "Creamy Incredible Macaroni and Cheese."

It's sublime.

I would have taken a picture. But it's gone. So with Steph's permission, I'll cut and paste her recipe and her pictures from her blog.

Run, don't walk, to make this ultimate comfort food. The following is a cut-and-paste from Stephanie's Blog. Follow her. Make this.


Creamy, incredible macaroni and cheese

mac n cheese and choc cookies 055
I realize that calling macaroni and cheese “incredible” might seem like hyperbole, but I was really craving some of this cheesy pasta, and when I tasted this tonight, I was ecstatic! It was everything I was hoping for: creamy, cheesy, a bit crusty on top, with a nice zingy flavor, due to the dry mustard and red pepper flakes.  (Zingy is a real word, right?)
The recipe is based upon Paula Deen’s creamy crock pot macaroni-n-cheese, but I changed quite a few things.  I didn’t want to use a crock pot, as I was afraid the pasta would get too mushy. I wanted a nice, al dente pasta. Here is a link to Paula’s Creamy Mac-n-Cheese.
Now, here is what I did.
MamaSteph’s Creamy, Incredible Macaroni and Cheese
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup sour cream
4 TBS butter (I used salted)
1  10 oz. can Campbell’s Cheddar Cheese soup (do NOT turn your nose up at this, foodies; just trust it.) ;)
3 cups grated Cheddar Cheese
3 eggs, beaten
13 oz. dry large elbow macaroni (I bought a 24 oz bag, and used a bit over half of it, so this is approximate)
Boil the pasta according to package directions; drain and set aside in its pot.
In a saucepan, melt the four TBS of butter over low-medium heat. Stir in the grated cheddar cheese, allowing it to completely melt while stirring.  Add the soup, sour cream, heavy cream, salt and pepper, dry mustard, and red pepper flakes, continuing to stir until it is mixed well. Add the eggs, stirring until everything is smooth and well-combined.  In a large pot, combine the drained pasta and the cheese sauce, stirring until the macaroni is evenly coated with cheese.
Transfer the pasta to a Pam-sprayed 2 quart casserole dish. Sprinkle top with a handful of bread crumbs or crushed buttery crackers, if you like. (I used Progresso bread crumbs, as I had them on hand.)  Bake at 350 degrees F for about 25 minutes.
After mine looked somewhat bubbly around the edges, I turned on the broiler to gently brown the top, as this gives it that bit of a crust on top and looks nice. Here’s my final product:

Now, I do realize that you may be unhappy with the fat content in this dish. I understand. You could easily make some changes: use milk instead of cream, use light sour cream, use part-skim cheese, and use Smart Balance margarine.  I used the light sour cream and cheese, as that is what I had on hand. As for the type of cheese, my cheddar was MILD, but you could move up to sharp or even extra-sharp, if you like those flavors. You could also add more red pepper flakes if you like a bit more heat. I think this is one of those great dishes that you can experiment with to find out what sets off that little explosion of joy for your tastebuds, as this recipe did for mine tonight!
If you decide to try it, would you please come back after you do to let me know how you liked it, and/or what changes you made to personalize it to your tastes? I’d love to know. Happy eating!

1 comment:

  1. Amy, thank you for the loving and encouraging words! I am touched. You are such a heroine of mine, as I'm always amazed at how much you handle and what a good job you do handling it! It's inspirational, really, friend. :)