Top 10 Foods: Past & Present – #1 Mac & Cheese

We’re kicking off our foodie blog series for 2012, and we thought we would start with… say it with us… ahhhhh comfort food. What better than good old Mac & cheese? So we did some research and it reads like a delicious history lesson.

Although the exact origin of macaroni & cheese is unknown (as most things are) the earliest recorded mac & cheese recipe is found in the oldest of medieval cookbooks: Liber de Coquina (Latin for “the book of cooking”) during the 14th century. You can bet they didn’t have uniform little noodles to work with. And, would they ever have done a blue cheese or gruyere option? But we digress…

The dish is most commonly thought to have descended from Italy and introduced to America by Thomas Jefferson. In 1793, after a trip to Italy where Jefferson first ate macaroni & cheese (then cut up lasagna noodles tossed with parmesan cheese, known as “de lasanis”), he loved the dish so much that he bought a pasta maker to bring back to America. (Maybe those secret talks with the French were actually just recipe sharing?) He then served the first “macaroni pie” in the White House for a state dinner in 1802.

Kraft Foods started boxing macaroni & cheese (affectionately know as “Kraft Dinner”) in 1937 during the tail end of the Great Depression. Considering this product could serve a family of four for just 19 cents, (and hey, they were on sale at the supermarket for 99 cents last week…that’s not exactly a huge price increase in 75 years) staples such as fresh meat and dairy were in short supply, rationing was in effect, and women needed to join the workforce: It’s no wonder Kraft sold 8 million boxes in the first year. Kraft had a low cost meal that was believed to provide a nutritious alternative to a meat dish. It was quick and easy, and it became a generational staple for kids and adults alike.

Today, packaged mac & cheese has evolved to choices such as organic, white cheddar, spiral, homestyle, dinner cups, smart vegetables, etc., but we must implore… TAKE BACK THE MAC! Explore it, make it healthier, add some gumption and enjoy.

We challenged this month’s sponsor chef, Doug Fletcher (see bio below) to give us a WOW recipe that will not only please the kids, but make it still worthy of White House attention.

IMAGE SOURCES: thekitchn.com idsgn.org

Meet Doug Fletcher, your personal chef.

“I love that Capital acknowledges that the majority of meals cooked on their appliances may not be fancy dishes. Cooking for families is the majority of my business, and comfort food such as Mac & Cheese is a family pleaser. But, for an added twist, I offer an “adult” version of this dish, so perhaps a dinner party feature is in order?”

Doug Fletcher, from Got It Made personal chef services provides fresh, interesting food for a variety of situations – healthy home meal replacements for busy families, intimate dinner parties to celebrate special occasions, larger parties with friends and family, corporate events or any other special occasions in the Southwestern Ontario region. Doug can be reached at 905.977.8919 or email him for further information.

As Doug says… enjoy the small times and eat well.

ADULT MAC & BLUE CHEESE courtesy of Doug

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces thick-sliced bacon
  • Vegetable oil
  • Salt
  • 2 cups elbow macaroni
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 5 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated
  • 2 ounces blue cheese crumbled
  • 2 ounces grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch fresh grated nutmeg

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and start boiling a pot of water to cook your macaroni in. Cook bacon until crispy. Set aside to cool. Crumble when cooled.
  2. Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the macaroni and cook according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well.
  3. Heat the milk in a small saucepan, do not boil it. Melt the butter in a medium pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or 2 more, until thickened and smooth.
  4. Off the heat, add Cheddar and blue cheese, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and crumbled bacon and stir well. Pour into dish.
  5. Sprinkle parmesan cheese on the top of the pasta. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top. Serve.