When you want the very best mac and cheese, why not go the Alton Brown's choice as the best comfort food Mac and Cheese in the country. While not much more work and you can have this classic comfort food at home.
A very special mac and cheese recipe. Start with the best ingredients, season nicely then add some browning for a Maillard reaction that will make all that great taste just pop.
Listed as the top Mac and Cheese by Alton Brown on Food Network's "America's Best: Top 10 Comfort Foods", Zingerman's Roadhouse in Ann Arbor is a local tradition in Ann Arbor.
We were off to AA for football, and my daughter (and wife) love mac & cheese, so I thought it was time for classic goodness. Zingerman's posted the recipe for this one but took it down. I basically follow the recipe but with some simplification and expansion of the instructions for clarification. I do not use raw milk cheese. And I used a different pasta.
A top of the line Mac and Cheese
Quality does matter throughout this recipe. Great cheddar cheese and pasta go a long way to making this dish special.
Get the best you can. Somewhat like cooking with wine, you shouldn't make this dish with cheese that does not bring a smile to your face when you eat it.
I pick a sharp Cabot's Cheddar. The restaurant uses aged raw milk cheddar. The doctor in my just can not, for any reason, endorse raw milk, so Cabot's for me.
The same quality warning goes for the pasta and the dijon mustard. Use the best you can get to make the best mac and cheese.
This is initially a fairly typical recipe but with quality ingredients. Cook the pasta; make a cheese sauce by making a roux. The more fat the better applies.
But the final step, which is the frying, which is where you will create the Maillard reaction, which is the key to elevating this recipe above all others.
The key points to the frying:
- Use a large skill, so you have a large hot surface area.
- Get the pan and the oil very hot before adding the mac and cheese. Don't be shy; get it hot.
- Pay attention not to burn, but don't stir continuously. Give the dish some time to brown between stirs.
- Get at least 15-20% of the dish browned to your liking. I suggest very brown. The images don't quite convey that.
📖Mac and Cheese Recipes
Cook 1 pound of pasta according to box instructions with 2 tablespoons sea salt. Drain and set aside.
In a heavy saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat, then add one small chopped onion and one bay leaf. Cook until onion is soft and getting transparent. About 5 minutes. Remove the bay leaf.
Slowly add 2 tablespoons flour to onion for about 1 minute while stirring continuously.
Now slowly add 1 ½ cups whole milk while stirring continuously to avoid lumps. Now add ¼ cup of heavy cream in the same manner. Simmer for 2-3 minutes until thickening.
Reduce heat to medium. Now add 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon sea salt, and one pound of excellent cheddar cheese. Stir well and continue to simmer (only a few bubbles) for about 5 minutes. Mix in the pasta and stir to combine will.
Now add 1 tablespoon olive oil to a large pan and heat over high heat until oil is starting to smoke. Add pasta and cheese mixture and stir until about 15-20% is dark brown. Do not stir continuously; give it some time to brown.
Do you want more recipes from 101 Cooking for Two? Sign up for the newsletter and get all posts delivered straight to your inbox!
Editor's Note: Originally Published October 15, 2010. Updated with expanded options, refreshed photos, and a table of contents to help navigation.