This is the beginning of my quest for the perfect mac and cheese recipe.
I remember the first time I cooked mac and cheese I only used two ingredients—macaroni and cheese slices. After draining the noodles, I immediately mixed in the cheese slices until they melted. I then added salt and pepper to taste and I was done. I was in college then so I didn’t mind the taste and I thought that’s how everybody made mac and cheese. I was wrong.
If you google mac and cheese recipes, you’ll get more than 13 million results. That’s a lot of mac and cheese recipes. Since this dish is not a staple in my part of the world, I always looked for the perfect mac and cheese dishes in restaurants and the recipes, of course.
Most of the recipes online require cooking the French bechamel sauce as the base for the cheese sauce. The differences vary from the type of cheeses added, usually multiple kinds, like sharp cheddar, Parmesan, Gruyère, Mozzarella, among others. Then there’s the spices, most only use salt and pepper while some put cayenne, freshly ground nutmeg, paprika, etc. On the other hand, some require the smoked flavor of bacon or the salty goodness of Italian pancetta. For the topping, a combination of breadcrumbs and cheese is pretty commonplace.
So, last week, I made mac and cheese with the available ingredients from our fridge and the pantry. For the cheese sauce, I cooked bechamel as the base and used two types of cheeses—cream cheese and regular cheese. What exactly is regular cheese? In the Philippines, the market is dominated by processed cheese food, small bars of cheese that are just processed food with cheese flavoring. Yes, like American cheese. These “cheeses” have a light and creamy taste to them and doesn’t have the bold flavors of real cheeses. I then added dijon mustard and ground chili pepper to flavor my sauce and of course, salt and pepper. I used fine bread crumbs and regular grated Parmesan cheese for the topping.
The result: meh.
The flavors are underwhelming, it’s more milk than cheese. I didn’t get the right cheese flavor a proper mac and cheese has. The topping didn’t help either because the Parmesan was not enough. It was okay but it needed a bit more kick.
This was unsuccessful but I will sure cook up another one in the future. I will shop for better cheese this time.
Just keep cooking.