Monday, February 18, 2008

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Here's another Oregonian Food Day (fabulous) recipe!

Baked Macaroni and Cheese This makes four 6-serving portions
This makes a huge amount of cheese sauce, and it can take a long time for that much sauce to thicken up. To make it easier, try dividing the amounts in half and making two separate batches. If you have two large pots and are good at multitasking, you can cook them at the same time.
3 pounds elbow macaroni
Olive oil, for the macaroni
3 pounds bulk mild Italian sausage
11/2 cups unsalted butter (3 sticks; divided)
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon dry mustard
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
101/2 cups low-fat milk (1/2 gallon plus 21/2 cups)
51/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (1 quart, plus 11/4 cups)
3 pounds colby cheese, shredded (about 10 cups)
2 pounds extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 8 cups)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Tabasco sauce, to taste
3 cups fresh bread crumbs (about 12 slices sandwich bread), torn or whirled in a food processor
3 10-ounce packages frozen peas

To prep in advance: In two or three batches, depending on your pot size, cook macaroni in boiling salted water until almost tender but still firm to the bite. Drain. Put in a large bowl or pot. Toss with a tablespoon or so of olive oil to prevent sticking. Cool, cover and refrigerate up to one day.

Cook sausage in large skillet over medium-high heat, in batches if necessary; drain fat. Cool and refrigerate up to one day.

In a pot that will hold at least 1 gallon or in batches, melt 2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Stir in the garlic, mustard and cayenne. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the flour and cook until golden, about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the milk and broth. Bring to a simmer and cook, whisking often, until the mixture is slightly thickened and coats the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes.

Off the heat, whisk the colby and cheddar cheeses into the sauce until completely melted. Season with salt, pepper and Tabasco to taste. Cool and refrigerate up to two days.

To assemble:
Melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter and toss with the bread crumbs; set aside.
Combine the cooked macaroni and sausage with the cheese sauce. (Use a very large bowl or stockpot or divide the ingredients in half and do it in batches.) Stir in the peas. Pour the mixture into four 9-by-13-inch foil baking pans. Sprinkle the top with the buttered bread crumbs. Cover with foil and label with the contents and heating instructions. Freeze or refrigerate until ready to cook.

To serve:
If frozen, thaw macaroni in the refrigerator overnight. When you're ready to serve, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Leave foil on for first 10 minutes, then remove foil and bake 15 to 20 minutes more or until hot and bubbly in the center and top is golden brown. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

-- From Shannon Wheeler, FOODday intern

PER SERVING: calories: 953 (53% from fat); protein: 45.4 grams; total fat: 55.6 grams; saturated fat: 31.4 grams; cholesterol: 162 mg; sodium: 1,204 mg; carbohydrate: 66.3 grams; dietary fiber: 2 grams

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