Recipe Review: Alton Brown Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Hi there! I am trying something new here, where I write about the occasional recipes I have made as-is (I’m a pathological recipe-changer, so this is rare), and give my review and what I would do to change it, if anything.

alton brown good eatsTo launch this inaugural effort, I have written about two of my favourite things: scratch-baked macaroni and cheese, and the tireless Alton Brown, described as an American television show personality, food show presenter, “scientist-chef”, author, actor, and star/host/commentator of several TV shows over the years, including Good Eats (one of my ultimate faves), the mini series’ Feasting on Asphalt and Feasting on Waves, Iron Chef America, and the current Cutthroat Kitchen.

Brown is a prolific writer as well, not only with several books on cooking to his credit, but also on twitter (his handle is @altonbrown). He is also an active contributor to his namesake website, where he posts many short how-to videos on cooking techniques, and, if that weren’t enough, keeps his game smokin’ hot by constantly engaging in televised or YouTubed “cook-off battles” with several top-brand chefs.

Now do you see why I idolize this man? When does he sleep??

In any case, here is Alton Brown’s recipe; my review is below.

Baked Mac and Cheese, Alton Brown Style

2015-09-14 18.19.27

Sourced from Alton Brown’s recipe, found HERE.

Total Time: 1 hr 5 min | Prep: 20 min | Cook: 45 min

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

  • 1/2 pound elbow macaroni
  • 3 tbsp salted butter
  • 3 tbsp AP flour
  • 1 tbsp powdered mustard
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 12 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Fresh black pepper

Topping:

  • 3 tablespoons salted butter
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente. Drain, rinse in cold water to stop cooking, and set aside.

2015-09-14 17.05.18While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a separate pot. Whisk in flour and dry mustard for about five minutes, to whisk away all lumps. Stir in the milk, onion, bay leaf, and paprika. Simmer for ten minutes and remove the bay leaf.

2015-09-14 17.15.24Place egg in heatproof measuring jug and carefully pour a small amount of hot milk mixture over it, whisking it madly with a fork or whisk until it is well combined. Scrape egg mixture into pot and combine thoroughly (this is called “tempering”).

2015-09-14 17.32.312015-09-14 17.29.19Stir in all but a handful of the cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Fold the cooked macaroni into the mix and pour into a 2-quart buttered casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.

2015-09-14 17.44.26Melt the butter in a sauté pan and toss the bread crumbs to coat. Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.

=====================================================

MY REVIEW: This was a good macaroni and cheese, and don’t get me wrong, Alton Brown is my spirit animal, but there are definitely a few things I would change about it were I to make it again.

no eggFirstly, I don’t really think the egg is necessary; Eggs are food enhancers; they both add richness and help to combine foods, getting them to “stick together.” The amount of cheese sauce in this recipe, along with the natural starch in the pasta, tales care of that just fine by itself, in my opinion. The addition of the egg just made it taste a little *too* rich, and in the wrong way, like it was a very cheesy quiche.

no-onionsSecondly, I wasn’t all that thrilled with the taste of cooked onion in my mac and cheese. Now, I’m a big fan of onions, and put them in most of my food recipes, but it was an off-tone that I didn’t like in this one. I would probably omit the onion altogether, or at least replace it with maybe some finely minced celery, or fresh parsley.

nutmegThirdly, as I mentioned above, I would not use the bay leaf at all (and didn’t; the one change I made to my version). Too much like sucking on an evergreen tree to my taste, thankyouverymuch. A traditional bechamel sauce uses a small amount of nutmeg, which I presume AB was substituting with the bay leaf (bay leaves and onion *do* go well together, I admit). So I would remove it altogether, or put in nutmeg instead.

dairy productsLastly, while 2% milk and orange Cheddar are delicious and absolutely necessary additions to any cheese sauce involving macaroni, it would have been nice to see other dairy products and cheeses in there, to enrich the flavour profile. I would have substituted some of the 2% with sour cream and half-and-half for milks, to increase its richness (hey, anybody who tells you that mac and cheese is a diet food is L-Y-I-N-G), and two other cheeses as minimum; one for creaminess, such as cream cheese or mozzarella, and one for sharpness, such as a Parmesan or Gruyere. Otherwise it’s just a one-trick pony. A tasty pony, but still nearly trickless.

All in all, despite my kvetching, this was a good, solid mac and cheese recipe, and I would recommend it to others either as-is or with any of my refinements above. I will soon post a recipe with pictures of the batch cooking mac and cheese we made over the past weekend, which was significantly different enough to warrant posting about, especially since I pretty much made it up in my head as I went along…

So I guess seeing it down in print will be a revelation to us all.

HIGH FIVES FOR EVERYBODY!!!

barney stinson high five

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One Comment Add yours

  1. This sounds like a nice recipe, enjoyed your changes and explaining! lovely

    Like

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