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Just Plain Good Macaroni & Cheese

At last, the mother of all comfort foods makes an appearance on our blog: Macaroni and Cheese. There are restaurants, blogs, books and t-shirts devoted entirely to the celebrated dish. I even know of a pair of pet gerbils named after it, but I digress.

This recipe is a "sensible" three-cheese variety. It contains no heavy cream or eggs and only a modest amount of butter. I believe a good mac and cheese is unpretentious and simple, honest and reassuring. It should also cure insomnia.

2 cups large elbow macaroni, uncooked
2 cups low fat milk
* if needed, additional 1/4 cup milk for final cooking
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon Coleman's mustard powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 generous dash of nutmeg, freshly grated
1/2 cup Sand Creek Gouda, shredded
1/2 cup SarVecchio Parmesan, shredded
1/2 cup Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, shredded
1/2 cup bread crumbs (I used leftover Slow Dough ciabatta)
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced

Quickly rinse macaroni in a colander and let drain. Combine milk, uncooked macaroni, salt, 1 tablespoon butter, mustard powder and nutmeg in a 4 quart pot. On medium heat, slowly bring milk/macaroni mixture to a simmer, stirring frequently. You want to keep the macaroni from sticking together and allow the milk to come to a boil very slowly, so you have to babysit the stove. Once mixture comes to a simmer, turn heat to low. Continue to stir frequently, remember you're babysitting. Cook for 15-20 minutes or until milk has fully absorbed. If macaroni is not done to your liking, add a little more milk and continue to cook. When milk has absorbed, stir in shredded cheeses, reserving a little for the top. Stir to combine evenly and remove from heat.

Preheat oven to 350. Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a sauce pan. Add rosemary and bread crumbs. Cook on medium until breadcrumbs are crispy. Once cooled, use your hand or the bottom of a glass to break crumbs into finer pieces.

Place macaroni and cheese in baking dish or individual soufflé dishes. Top with cheese and bread crumbs. Bake for 10 minutes. Turn oven to broil to brown for about 5 more minutes. Serve immediately. If you're feeling gluttonous, garnish with fried chicken. Yes, I'm serious.

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