In honor of my older daughter’s birthday month, and to honor the fact that she is about to give birth to her second child ANY MOMENT NOW, I thought it would be a good time to write about what many might consider the quintessential comfort food. In both of my daughter’s cases, that would refer to (drumroll, please): Macaroni and Cheese.
I’ve made myriad versions of Mac & Cheese in my life and have developed many recipes; simple, a bit complicated; vegetarian, meaty. As girls, however, my daughters usually just wanted me to mix up a box of Kraft (or Amy’s, or even whatever store brand I could find). As they got older, they grew to appreciate more nuance and more interesting ingredients (and certainly less artificial ones) in their Mac & Cheese.
When I was developing recipes for my Middle-earth cookbook, I read a lot about medieval cooking. J. R. R. Tolkien certainly never mentions pasta as an ingredient, but I came up with this particular recipe after reading about early European pasta development. “Macrows” makes an appearance in Great Britain in the 14th Century, served with butter and grated cheese on the side. By the 18th Century, macaroni would be cooked and mixed with cream; cheese would be sprinkled on top, then the whole dish would be broiled. You must end up with a golden-brown dish at the end, of course.
When I came up with this recipe, Chloë and Callista had strangely philosophical arguments about the nature of Mac & Cheese. Should the cheese be incorporated into the pasta? Callista believed it should be integrated within the sauce; therefore, she felt this dish did not qualify as traditional Mac & Cheese. Chloë (the tired mom-to-be) came to the defense of this recipe’s honor, which explains why it is named for her. That’s not to say that Callista doesn’t enjoy this dish—she does, indeed.
It’s amazing to me how many variations on the Mac & Cheese theme there are, and so many of them are wonderfully soothing to one’s soul. But if you want to make a dish that hearkens back to English history, try this one out. It’s definitely guaranteed to make a vastly pregnant person happy, as well.
The recipe’s title would be a rather Middle-English way of spelling Mac & Cheese.
Chloë’s Macrows ond Chese (a.k.a. Chloë’s Macaroni and Cheese)
- 2 quarts water
- 8 ounces elbow macaroni (or other small pasta)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1¼ cups heavy cream
- ¼ cup salted butter
- ½ cup seasoned bread crumbs
- 4 ounces shredded Gouda cheese
- 2 ounces finely shredded Parmesan or Romano cheese
Preheat oven to 400°. Coat a 2″ deep, 7″ by 11″ serving dish with cooking spray or grease lightly. Bring the water to a boil in a 4-quart saucepan. Add the macaroni and cook as directed on the package. Drain and put back in the saucepan. Add the salt and cream and combine. Pour this into the prepared dish (it will be soupy).
Meanwhile, microwave the butter in a medium glass bowl in 30-second intervals until melted. Add the remaining ingredients and combine. Sprinkle this evenly over the macaroni. Bake for 16-18 minutes, until golden brown on top. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Cover and refrigerate leftovers (the macaroni will completely absorb the cream and you will be left with buttery, bready, cheesy noodles—if you have any leftovers; don’t count on it…). Serves 4-6.
Meat Lover’s Option—Add between 1-2 cups of any kind of diced, cooked meat to the pasta—this is a good place to use up some leftovers (you can cut up 2 or 3 hot dogs and watch this disappear extra fast…).