Friday, August 31, 2012

Simply Islander's Macaroni and Cheese

A Caribbean Sea sunset from Nat'l Geographic Magazine
As we are working our way into the brisk crispness of autumn, resplendent with vibrant reds, yellows, oranges and siennas, I find myself turning the thermostat up in our kitchen.  Literally, as the semi-mountainous climate we live in near the beautiful Adirondack park brings some frosty nights.  Figuratively, as our bodies seem to instinctively seek carbohydrate-laden main dishes in preparation for winter.

This macaroni and cheese recipe is a special one for our family, because it comes from a highly unexpected source.  Old cookbooks are to me what shoes were to Carrie Bradshaw~~treasured finds that get caressed and cooed over with great joy.  One of these treasures that I found for 10 cents at the library booksale while Rembrandt and I were doing the long distance relationship thing was titled "Bermudian Cookery".  It was published in 1964 by the Bermudian Ladies' Junior League, and has some exotic cuisines (west indian pepperpot, silver groom's cake, salt cod and loquat pickle) as well as some tried and true Continental favorites.

I am unsure exactly which country claims macaroni and cheese as its own, and frankly, I don't really care.  It is simple, savory and delicious.  The Caribbean version of this perennial favorite is often referred to by locals as "bric mac".  The focus is placed not so much on the creamy roux that coats the pasta, but on the amount of cheese baked into the dish.  When it serves, the only way to cut it successfully is into squares, or bricks.  No separation of pasta and sauce here folks~~this substantial supper stays where you put it, and is just as delicious as the creamier North American variety.  Buon appetito!

Brick Mac

  • 1 pound elbow macaroni, cooked al dente and drained
  • 1 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 cups each freshly grated mozzarella, XXX sharp cheddar and parmesan
  • 2 Tablespoons prepared mustard (we like French's)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 large onions, julienned
  1. Boil the salted water in a large pot to prepare the box of macaroni per direction.
  2. While the pasta cooks, grate the cheeses and slice the onions.
  3. In small saucepan over LOW heat, bring the milk and flour to a boil, whisking constantly until the mixture begins to thicken.  Season with the mustard, salt and pepper.  Add 1/2 of the mixed cheeses and stir until incorporated.
  4. Drain the pasta in a collander and pour into a 13 by 9 casserole dish.  Pour the thickened roux over the top and cover pasta with the onions.  Take the remaining 3 cups of cheese and sprinkle evenly over the top of the macaroni.
  5. Bake in 400 degree oven for 60 minutes or until the cheese has browned and surface is firm.
  6. Cool to near room temperature before serving for perfect bricks~~hey in the tropics, the sun would keep it this temp anyhow.
  7. Pairs well with a crisp white wine, such as Pinot Grigio, or a hard cider.  Serve with a bountiful tossed salad and bread and butter to feed 12 people very comfortably.
COOKING TIP:  For Perfectly grated fresh mozzarella, freeze your cheese for 15 to 30 minutes before grating.  This keeps the soft cheese easy to manage and reduces waste from stringiness.  

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