I have (literally) travelled the world in search of the best macaroni & cheese. A few summers back, we travelled to the mac & cheese mecca that is the Southern U.S.A. From Nashville to New Orleans, we ate mac & cheese every chance that we could get. It is amazing how a dish SO simple can be done SO wrong in SO many places.

Let me start by talking about what mac & cheese is NOT: Macaroni and cheese is NOT penne and cheese. It is not rigatoni and cheese. It especially isn't orzo and cheese. Macaroni and cheese is meant to be made with, you guessed it, macaroni. Stop trying to change this. Stop lying to me on your menus. Your penne in bland béchamel sauce with parmesan on top? IT'S NOT MAC AND CHEESE.

There. I've said it.

Now. Here is why THIS mac and cheese works best. Mac and cheese needs to be creamy - and it needs to not congeal and separate after 10 seconds of serving. A big problem that most recipes have is their lack of understanding of basic food science - more specifically, cheese science. Yes. There is science behind mac and cheese. The geniuses over at Serious Eats / The Food Lab discuss this in detail in their book. (You can find that book, which I HIGHLY recommend HERE!) The secret is in the proteins.

PROS: reasons why this mac and cheese is better than all the others you've ever made.
NO BÉCHAMEL NEEDED. No. Seriously. We are going to make a mac and cheese that is absolutely creamy and delicious without white sauce.
ULTRA GOOEY - no separation of oils here.
ONE POT WONDER - No joke. This is all made in one pot. You cook the pasta AND the cheese sauce in the same pot. Can't be easier.
REHEATS DECENTLY - I won't say "well", because you it is BEST served the day it's made, but of all the macaroni & cheeses that I've made, this one reheats the best when you add a little milk.

CONS: Are you kidding me? There is no con to good mac & cheese. Except for maybe that it isn't the healthiest item on the menu - but come on. This is comfort food that nourishes the soul.


Calling in your unexpected superstar: evaporated milk. Yes, that's correct. That canned weird stuff that you thought was only for baking in the 1970s? That one. The proteins are concentrated and will result in a much creamier mixture than a starchy floury béchamel. (Be careful when shopping though, you want evaporated milk and NOT sweetened condensed. Two very different foodstuffs. I recommend using Carnation Brand 2%.) You also want to choose a cheese that holds together as it slowly melts - not one that separates. The right blend of processed yellow (also known as American) cheese and something like processed smoked gouda (or just regular young gouda, if you aren't a smoked fan). Do not choose any cheeses aged more than a year. Though they have a powerful flavour, they will separate as they melt and won't work well here. For the American cheese, try to find a deli block if you can. It has a nicer flavour than those individually wrapped singles. My personal preference is to use Kraft Extra Cheddar cheese slices. (I find them at any grocery store, but they are also online here.)

Now - if it's all tl;dr to you, or if you actually read all the way up to here (awesome!) and you just want the recipe - here she is, folks!

Best Classic Stovetop Macaroni & Cheese
recipe adapted from "The Food Lab" by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

ingredients
454g (1lb) macaroni noodles
114g (1/4 pound or 1 stick) butter
1 can (12oz) evaporated milk
2 eggs
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp cornstarch
400g grated smoked gouda *
* (or young gouda or young gruyère, or jack cheese or a mixture of any of these)
225g cubed, torn or shredded American Cheese (I like to use deli cheese or Kraft Extra Cheddar)
1 cup chopped green onions / scallions

method 
Place the macaroni in a large, wide-bottomed pot. Cover with about 2 inches of water.
Bring to a boil & stir. Cook 6 to 8 minutes, until al-dente.
While pasta is cooking, in a separate large bowl, beat eggs and add evaporated milk, mustard and cornstarch. Whisk until combined, and toss with cheeses.
Once pasta is cooked, drain and return to the pan. Add butter and stir until melted.
Add cheese / milk mixture. Stir.
Cook until mixture is melted and creamy. Add in green onions at the end and stir.
Serve hot, preferably while wearing elastic-waist pants.
Growing up in a Jewish household, we never had white sliced bread.
No. Seriously. Never. We had challah. Or onion rolls. Or pumpernickel. But white sliced? Never. The first time I tried white sliced bread was at a non-Jewish friend's house. Slathered with mayonnaise and bologna... I really didn't get the appeal.

30 years later, and I am still a rather large bread snob. The thing is, we've now moved to a predominately Italian area - which is an amazing place to be if you're looking for pizza, but not the best place to find a babka, let alone some kosher bread.

Good thing I like to cook.

Bread baking really isn't my forté, but I never stop trying new recipes and new techniques. It turns out that some of my favourites are actually some of the easiest to make. I recently started to perfect my pumpernickel, and last week I came across a really awesome Kaiser roll recipe. Slightly dense inside, crisp outer crust, bathed in eggwash and poppy seeds - they are incredibly reminiscent of the ones that I had in my school lunches as a kid.

These make excellent burger buns, or hearty sandwich bread alternatives. They are slightly dense and are a great base for something saucy, like a lentil sloppy joe or some pulled-pork style jackfruit.



Homemade Kaiser Rolls
a.k.a. Easy Bread Buns
a.k.a. The Most Excellent Burger Buns
recipe adapted from Taste of Home

ingredients

8g active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (110°F)
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp salt
3 cups AP flour

1 egg (or 1tsp cornstarch if vegan)
2 tbsp. water
poppy and/or sesame seeds (for sprinkling)

method
In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add sugar and oil. Let stand for 10 minutes. 

Mix the flour with the salt. Add flour mixture a little at a time until it is all combined. If dough is extremely sticky, add up to 1/4 cup more flour.
Turn dough onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. 
Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; divide into 6 to 8 pieces. Shape each into a ball. Place 2 in. apart on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400°F. 
Beat egg and cold water; brush over rolls. 
Sprinkle with poppy and/or sesame seeds. 

Right before placing in oven, slash tops with a lame, razor, or very sharp knife.
Bake at 400°F for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown. 

Allow to cool fully before slicing. 

Béchamel sauce is one of those basic sauces that every good chef should be able to master. The problem? Béchamel is just that - SO incredibly basic that, well, it's boring! There. I said it! BÉCHAMEL IS FLAVOURLESS! Every traditional béchamel that I've tasted has been super plain, and feels like it is lacking. My pet peeve is when someone makes mac-and-cheese but it's like 50% béchamel, and it tastes like nothing. Enter a few extra flavourful ingredients though, and you've got yourself the creamy white sauce of your dreams. The powerhouse flavours in my arsenal? Onions (both dried and caramelized), buttermilk, vinegar (no, seriously) and fresh sage. Yes, my béchamel is a little out of the ordinary - meaning, in that it has TONS of flavour. I've married together Bernaise sauce's acidity, hollandaise sauce's butter & béchamel's roux to make the best white sauce you've ever had. The best part: it's easy! It is also super versatile. Add some shredded sharp cheddar or smoked gouda and you've got yourself some mac&cheese sauce. Toss it with green beans and bake to make a green bean casserole that'll knock your grandma's socks off. (Seriously, you CAN make a green bean casserole WITHOUT condensed soup.) Use it on top of crèpes and become a brunch hero. Eat it with a spoon. Ok, no, maybe that's only me. But, you get the idea.


Easy Recipe for Flavourful Béchamel 
with Sage & Caramelized Onion

175g butter
150g flour
250ml milk
250 ml buttermilk
500ml 15% cream
2 tbsp. dried onion pieces
4 tbsp. butter
5 shallots, minced
2 bay leaves
6 fresh sage leaves
salt & pepper, to taste

In medium saucepan, melt 2 tbsp. butter. Add sage leaves and stir. Add in minced shallots. Cook over medium heat until shallots begin to turn golden brown. Add remaining 2 tbsp. butter. Stir until melted and combined. Remove from heat and set aside.

Melt 175g butter over medium heat in heavy bottomed saucepan. Whisk in flour all at once. Continue cooking over medium until mixture begins to bubble and soften.  (Congrats, you've just made a roux!)

Slowly add in milk, whisking constantly. Slowly add in cream & buttermilk, continuously whisking. Add bay leaves, dried onion & caramelized onion. Stir. Allow mixture to come to a boil. If mixture is too thick, add more milk or buttermilk (1 tbsp. at a time) until desired consistency is reached.