I just made some really good mac and cheese, quite by accident. Recently, I promised Mark I would write it down somewhere when I make something yummy, since I tend to forget how I did it and not being able to re-create it later. Seems like the blog is the best possible place to do that, since I can share the recipe with y'all as well as keep it for my own posterity. The proportions of butter, flour, milk, and cheese are more or less from Cooks Illustrated.
So here's my new go-to for mac and cheese:
-16 oz shredded cheese of multiple sorts
-1 12 oz bag vegetable rotelli
-2/3 cup panko or bread crumbs
-5 tbsp butter
-6 tbsp flour
-4 cups milk and/or half and half
-1 tsp dry mustard
-1/2 tsp nutmeg
-salt and pepper
1. Boil the pasta in some salted water. Pull it right before it's al dente, and run cold water over it to stop the cooking and make sure it doesn't stick together.
2. Shred up your cheese. The whole idea for me was to use the odds and ends of cheese I had around, so I ended up with 8 oz of mixed comte and gruyere (the ends of two chunks), a wee bit of mozzarella, and half of a 16 oz bag of "Mexican blend" cheese, containing sharp cheddar, jack, asadero, and queso blanco. You want about 16 oz total, and I say the more kinds the merrier.
3. Chop your leeks. Be sure to get any sand or grit out of them.
4. Preheat the oven to 375 or so.
5. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, then whisk in the flour. Cook this mixture for a couple of minutes, then whisk in the milk, dry mustard, nutmeg, and salt and pepper. I ran out of milk, so I used 3 cups of milk and a cup of half-and-half. I'll probably do that on purpose from here on out. Whisk whisk whisk until it thickens--mine took about 10 minutes. When it's thick, take it off the heat and add the cheese, whisking until it's smooth.
6. Heat up a skillet over medium-high heat with a little butter or oil, add the leeks and salt and pepper, and cook the leeks until they are soft and kinda translucent on the white bits. Takes about 5 minutes.
7. Mix the pasta, leeks, and sauce together in a bowl, then spread into a 8-by-8 inch pan. Sprinkle the panko or bread crumbs over the top.
8. Bake until it's bubbly and brown on the top--20 or 25 minutes should do it.