One of America’s Favorites – Macaroni and Cheese

October 5, 2020 at 6:02 AM | Posted in One of America's Favorites | Leave a comment
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Macaroni and cheese

Macaroni and cheese—also called mac ‘n’ cheese in the US, macaroni cheese in the United Kingdom—is a dish of cooked macaroni pasta and a cheese sauce, most commonly cheddar. It can also incorporate other ingredients, such as breadcrumbs, meat and vegetables.

Traditional macaroni and cheese is a casserole baked in the oven; however, it may be prepared in a sauce pan on top of the stove or using a packaged mix. The cheese is often first incorporated into a Béchamel sauce to create a Mornay sauce, which is then added to the pasta. In the United States, it is considered a comfort food.

US History of Mac and Cheese
The US president Thomas Jefferson and James Hemings, his chef and slave, encountered macaroni in Paris and brought the recipe back to Monticello. Jefferson drew a sketch of the pasta and wrote detailed notes on the extrusion process. In 1793, he commissioned the US ambassador to France William Short to purchase a machine for making it. Evidently, the machine was not suitable, as Jefferson later imported both macaroni and Parmesan cheese for his use at Monticello. In 1802, Jefferson served “a pie called macaroni” at a state dinner. The menu of the dinner was reported by Reverend Manasseh Cutler, who apparently was not fond of the cheesy macaroni casserole. Nevertheless, since that time, baked macaroni and cheese has remained popular in the United States.

Baked macaroni and cheese

A recipe called “macaroni and cheese” appeared in the 1824 cookbook The Virginia Housewife written by Mary Randolph. Randolph’s recipe had three ingredients: macaroni, cheese, and butter, layered together and baked in a hot oven. The cookbook was the most influential cookbook of the 19th century, according to culinary historian Karen Hess. Similar recipes for macaroni and cheese occur in the 1852 Hand-book of Useful Arts, and the 1861 Godey’s Lady’s Book. By the mid-1880s, cookbooks as far west as Kansas and Festus, Missouri, included recipes for macaroni and cheese casseroles. Factory production of the main ingredients made the dish affordable, and recipes made it accessible, but not notably popular. As it became accessible to a broader section of society, macaroni and cheese lost its upper class appeal.

Pasta other than macaroni are often used: almost any short-cut extruded pasta and many of the decorative cut pasta will do, particularly those with folds and pockets to hold the cheese. The dish may still be referred to as “macaroni and cheese” when made with a different pasta; while “shells and cheese” is sometimes used when it is made with Conchiglie.

While Cheddar cheese is most commonly used for macaroni and cheese, other cheeses may also be used — usually sharp in flavor — and two or more cheeses can be combined. Popular recipes include using Gruyere, Gouda, Havarti, and Parmesan cheese.

Macaroni and cheese can be made by simply layering slices of cheese and pasta (often with butter and/or evaporated milk) then baking in a casserole, rather than preparing as a cheese sauce. Also, some like to include a crunchy topping to their baked macaroni and cheese by topping it off with bread crumbs or crushed crackers, which also keeps the noodles on top from drying out when baking.

One novelty presentation is deep-fried macaroni and cheese found at fairs and food carts. In Scotland, macaroni and cheese can often be found incorporated into a pastry shell, known as a

Macaroni and cheese pizza

macaroni pie. Macaroni and cheese pizza can be found in some American restaurants, such as Cicis.

A similar traditional dish in Switzerland is called Älplermagronen (Alpine herder’s macaroni), which is also available in boxed versions. Älplermagronen are made of macaroni, cream, cheese, roasted onions, and in some recipes, potatoes. In the Canton of Uri, the potatoes are traditionally omitted, and in some regions, bacon or ham is added. The cheese is often Emmental cheese or Appenzeller cheese. It is usually accompanied by apple sauce.

Extra ingredients sometimes incorporated include bacon, jalapeños, tomatoes, onions, leeks, dried herbs, Tabasco sauce, sautéed mushrooms, ham, ground beef, sliced hot dogs, Spam, lobster, canned tuna or salmon, peas and broccoli.

Packaged macaroni and cheese is available in frozen form or as boxed ingredients for simplified preparation. Boston Market, Michelina’s, Kraft, and Stouffer’s are some of the more recognizable brands of prepared and frozen macaroni and cheese available in the United States. “Macaroni and cheese loaf”, a deli meat which contains both macaroni and processed cheese bits, can be found in some stores.

A variety of packaged mixes which are prepared in a sauce pan on the stove or in a microwave oven are available. They are usually modeled on Kraft Macaroni & Cheese (known as Kraft Dinner in Canada), which was introduced in 1937 with the slogan “make a meal for four in nine minutes.” It was an immediate success in the US and Canada amidst the economic hardships of the Depression. During the Second World War, rationing led to increased popularity for the product which could be obtained two boxes for one food rationing stamp. The 1953 Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook includes a recipe using Velveeta, which had been reformulated in that year. The boxed Kraft product is popular in Canada, where it is the most-purchased grocery item in the country.

Boxed mixes consist of uncooked pasta and either a liquid cheese sauce (often labeled “deluxe”) or powdered ingredients to prepare it. The powdered cheese sauce is mixed with either milk or

A plate of pre-packaged Kraft macaroni and cheese, served with tomato and sausage

water, and margarine, butter, or olive oil and added to the cooked pasta. Some mixes prepared in a microwave cook the pasta in the sauce.

Another popular variant is jarred macaroni cheese sauce, which is especially popular in the UK and US, available under the Dolmio and Ragú brands, among others. The pasta is purchased and prepared separately, then mixed with the heated cheese sauce.

Powdered cheese sauce, very similar to what is found inside a box of macaroni and cheese mix, is also sold without the pasta. This product is produced by several companies, most notably Bisto, Cabot, Annie’s and Kraft.

A number of different products on the market use this basic formulation with minor variations in ingredients.

Although high in carbohydrates, calories, fat, and salt, macaroni and cheese is a source of protein and certain variations of the dish can decrease the negative health aspects.

 

 

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