One of the best foods of all is Mac and Cheese, and although considered very much an all-American (or perhaps the American) meal, macaroni cheese has its origins firmly planted in Britain.
Boil four ounces of macaroni till it be quite tender and lay it on a sieve to drain. Then put it in a tossing pan with about a gill [a quarter of a pint] of good cream, a lump of butter rolled in flour, boil it five minutes. Pour it on a plate, lay all over it parmesan cheese toasted. Send it to the table on a water plate, for it soon gets cold.
My kids grew up on a macaroni and cheese recipe I got from Consumer Reports in the 1980s. It is so fast and simple because the roux makes itself. You cook the pasta, usually elbow macaroni until a bit underdone. Then you pour off only enough water to be level with the pasta. In the meantime you have grated a nice pile of whatever cheese you like, for us usually a cheddar, but it could be anything. Here is the trick. Into that pile of grated cheese you mix with your hands about a quarter cup of flour, enough to coat all the cheese. Then you just dump the floury cheese into the pasta sitting in its cooking water, stir a bit, maybe heat to cook the flour and it is ready. It is not as tasty as some recipes, but it is plenty good and so much better than the stuff in those blue boxes. Give it a try!
Mac n cheese is undoubtedly a super popular dish in the States, which Kraft helped spread all over the country. It may be considered an Italian American food, but what are the origins of this recipe? Is Mac n Cheese American? Rumors say it may be Italian..or even English!
Macaroni and cheese (or Mac n cheese for North Americans) is largely known to be an American comfort food made of very soft macaroni pasta gently spread in a casserole dish and topped with an indulgent mornay sauce that gets slightly brown and crusty when baked.
While Thomas Jefferson is credited with bringing macaroni and cheese to the Americas, it was the work of his enslaved chef, James Hemings, that put the dish on the proverbial map and made it the truly celebrated dish of Americans to this day. For Black people, macaroni and cheese is more than a savory delight, it represents overcoming trials, celebrating achievements and is a unifying factor for families across the race.
Macaroni and cheese was featured in cookbooks and became a culinary delight among the wealthy, but it also was a dish for the poor. After slavery, Blacks often relied on relief organizations and food from the government, which often included macaroni and processed cheese, making a quick, easy and affordable meal. Once Black Americans grew in wealth and access to more products from stores and markets, macaroni and cheese included a roux and other tricks of the trade passed down from generations to this day.
As a staple holiday dish in many American households, baked macaroni and cheese is widely represented in cookbooks and in media and television. For Black Americans, the dish also reflects a painful history.
Baked macaroni and cheese is a staple dish in traditional American families. On holidays and special events, I always saw a tray of crispy, baked mac and cheese, and everyone lined up to get themselves a piece of it.
Many decades later, and the dish now appears in countless American cookbooks, is the subject of holiday specials, and has become a staple get-together dish. Mac and cheese has also been popularized as a budget-friendly option for many people, as boxes of Kraft and Velveeta mac and cheese are widely available in local grocery stores.
For many Black Americans, a hot, baked dish of mac and cheese represents celebration and togetherness. It is brought out on holidays and during celebrations. As a soul food staple, mac and cheese recipes are often passed down through generations and are an integral part of many family histories.
While American comfort foods are known for their simple preparations, one dish in particular stands out as endlessly versatile and universally loved: macaroni and cheese. From a backyard barbecue to an upscale restaurant (with a stop at the Thanksgiving table in between), this gooey, cheesy favorite is equally welcomed wherever it finds itself, in whatever iteration it may be.
Whether plasticky, marigold-hued, and concocted from a box, or topped with breadcrumbs, shaved truffle, or morsels of lobster, macaroni and cheese transcends boundaries, cultures, and food preferences -- exemplifying comfort, no matter what form it takes. But how exactly did this much-adored dish find its way to American soil?
In February 1789, William Short wrote to Thomas Jefferson that, at Jefferson's request, he had procured a "mould for making maccaroni" in Naples, and had it forwarded to his mentor in Paris. The macaroni mold probably did not reach Paris until after Jefferson had departed. His belongings were shipped to Philadelphia in 1790, and the machine was probably included with those items. We know that Jefferson did have the machine in the United States eventually, as it is mentioned in a packing list with other household items shipped from Philadelphia to Monticello in 1793. While Jefferson had the pasta machine at Monticello, in later years he regularly ordered pasta from Europe.
Jefferson was not the first to introduce macaroni (with or without cheese) to America, nor did he invent the recipe as some have claimed. A recipe for macaroni in Jefferson's own hand survives, although it was most likely dictated to him by one of his chefs or butlers:
Chef Allison Arevalo was one of the founding owners of the Oakland mac and cheese restaurant Homeroom and co-author of The Mac and Cheese Cookbook. Currently, she hosts a weekly dinner called Pasta Friday and is putting the finishing touches to a cookbook of the same name.
This is a special sponsored episode of Gastropod. It's brought to you by Undeniably Dairy, and it features All Square, a professional development institute and craft grilled cheese restaurant in Minneapolis, founded by Emily Hunt Turner to help formerly incarcerated individuals overcome the obstacles they face in becoming productive citizens.
Victorians made macaroni and cheese by first boiling the macaroni, which sounds normal enough. But, then they sometimes added a tablespoon of canned tomatoes and then a layer of freshly grated cheese.
Boil the macaroni until cooked, then drain. Meanwhile, heat the cream in a saucepan until nearly (but not actually) boiling, then dissolve the cheese and butter into it. Stir in the seasonings. Combine the sauce and macaroni in a dish and cover with a thick layer of breadcrumbs. Brown in an oven.
One origin theory is that some form of pasta was spread by early Arab traders. Nomadic tribes were known to dry pasta for easy transport, sometimes in hollow shapes, which was described as early as 1154 AD by Arab geographer Al-Idrin. Ancient Greeks and Romans made a sheet of sliced wheat pasta for a dish called laganae, so fresh pasta was hardly a new concept. Regardless of how and when pasta originally arrived, Italians embraced it and both dried and fresh pasta became a permanent staple in Mediterranean cuisine.
The general consensus is that the earliest recorded recipe of pasta layered with cheese is from the 14th-century Italian cookbook Liber de Coquina. Due to the widespread culinary exchange happening in courts throughout Europe at the time, an altered version of this Italian dish made its way to England under the name Macrows.
Lasagna: For lasagna, take fermented dough and shape it as thin as you can. Then divide it into square parts three fingers wide. After that, take salted boiling water and cook the lasagna in it. When it is fully cooked, take the grated cheese. If you would like, you can add good quality powdered spices, and put the powder on them when they are in the dish. After that, put on a layer of lasagna and powder, and again put on top another layer and powder, and continue until the dish is full. Then, eat by puncturing them with a wooden stick/utensil.
Sprinkle 1/2 cup of grated cheese and approximately 1/2 tablespoon of butter into a dish and scoop 1/3 of the cooked pasta into it. Sprinkle a second layer of cheese and butter over the pasta. Repeat this with two more layers of pasta. You may want to heat the dish in the oven long enough for the cheese to melt, or you can just serve as is.
Roll the pasta dough out thin, approximately 1/8 inch. Slice into 1-2 inch strips or squares. Bring a pot of salted water to boil and cook the pasta 6-10 minutes or until done. Drain and set aside. In a dish, sprinkle 1/2 cup cheese and some butter at the bottom of the dish. Layer 1/3 of the pasta in the dish. Sprinkle 1/2 cup cheese and add butter on top. Add two more layers of pasta. Warm in the oven until the cheese is mostly melted, 5-10 minutes. Serve.
Made with macaroni noodles, cream or milk, and the golden goodness of cheese, mac and cheese shines as a side dish while also standing on its own as a main dish. This meal reminds many of us of home while also teaching us the basics of the kitchen. What other recipes allow us to create so flamboyantly and often with so little knowledge about cooking?
Mac and cheese offers a multitude of ways to enjoy it, too. As a soup, it warms us up after a long day. Stuff it inside a meatloaf or a burger for a meal made for a hungry, busy family. Roll up bite-sized bits in bread crumbs and deep fry for mouthwatering appetizers. Put your favorite mac and cheese between two slices of crusty bread. Then put into a panini press for some grilled yumminess. Whether we like it mild or spicy, mac and cheese has us covered. 2b1af7f3a8