Ahh Mac ‘n’ Cheese. What if I told you that instead of that processed grocery-store variety of this nostalgic favorite, you can create a from-scratch, rich and flavorful entree version of Mac and Cheese that can feed a crowd in under a half hour? No processed cheese powder required.
This dish features one of my all-time favorite seasoning blends, known around my apartment as simply, “Tonys.” Tony’s Creole Seasoning is a salt substitute that makes any dish pop with flavor — from scrambled eggs to fish. Typically, I use it anytime I make Mac ‘n’ Cheese to add some depth and cajun flair to what can be a heavy dish.
Besides the seasoning, the other ‘secret’ to this recipe is in making a Béchamel Cheese Sauce. This fancy sauce is actually extremely easy to make, and is a great introductory to the amazing culinary world that can open up when you start making your own sauces. The sauce is essentially equal amounts of melted butter mixed with flour (called a “roux” [‘roo’]), and then whisked-in warm milk and cheese. When you combine the Bechamel with the noodles, you get a thick and fulfilling Mac ‘n’ Cheese — not that liquid-y pre-made stuff.
Once you master making a Bechamel sauce, start exploring with different variations — different types of spices and seasonings, and different add-ins to the mac ‘n’ cheese. And actually, why only use the Bechamel to make a noodle dish — it’s equally delicious poured over green veggies or potatoes! The only limit is your imagination! A few notes on how to have success with Bechamel Sauces:
- Always use an equal amount of butter and flour to make your roux.
- Don’t cook the roux for too long — you want it to start clumping and getting brown, but not burnt!
- Whisk constantly, and add the milk very slowly, a cup at a time. It will thicken considerably when you melt the cheese into it. If it becomes too thick… just add milk!
- 1 lb Macaroni Noodles
- 1 cup cooked shredded chicken
- 1 cup cooked chopped bacon
- 3 green onions (divided)
- Salt and Pepper
- ½ cup butter
- ½ cup flour
- 2-3 tsp Tony's Creole Seasoning
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 3 cups milk, warmed in a microwave
- 2 cups grated cheddar
- 1 cup grated parmesan
- Prepare Macaroni according to package directions. Rinse and place in a 2.5 quart oven-proof dish.
- In a large saucepan on medium heat, melt the butter. Add the Tony's, garlic, and white parts of 3 green onions and stir until fragrant.
- Add the flour and whisk until light brown. It should have a sand-like consistency.
- Turn off the heat, and whisk in a cup at a time. Pour slowly, and whisk quickly!
- Turn the heat back on, and continue whisking until the mixture reaches a simmer and begins to have a glossy appearance (2-3 minutes total)
- Remove from heat and stir in cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Once cheese is melted in, add the bacon and chicken.
- Pour over the macaroni, using a spatula or spoon to mix the sauce with the noodles.
- Top with Panko, any remaining parmesan you have, and the green parts of 3 green onions.
- Broil for about a minute, until the cheese has melted. Keep an eye on it-- the Panko burns easily!
I thought I would experiment with making a video for you visual learners out there! Let me know what you think!
If you aren’t familiar with Postmodern Jukebox, you’re behind the times! They take pop culture classics, and reimagine them in completely new, fresh ways. Not unlike this macaroni recipe, for those of you that have only had the generic types of “homemade” mac ‘n’ cheese!