Cheap fancy mac

Occasionally I need to be a cheap bastard and still remain fancy.

That’s where the Kraft Homestyle mac n’ cheese pack gadooley comes in.  It’s like a mac n’ cheese casserole kit in a bag.  Genius.

Of course I don’t follow their instructions.  Who does?  Let’s face, elbow noodles never take 8 minutes to cook to perfect doneness unless your idea of al dente is ‘well, it’s not crunchy anymore, I guess that’s done’.

I cook the seasoning packet and butter a bit before adding the milk – it’s a roux, Kraft.  You’re having us make a seasoned roux.  I stir in the milk and add some spices of my own before cooking it into a white sauce, then squeeze the plastic cheese gook in, stir until the lumps are gone, and combine with cooked and drained pasta.

Depending on what sauce your pack comes with, and what you want to make, you can add various other things in.  I’ve done cooked veg, sausage, Hebrew National hot dogs are uh-mazing with cheddar mac and a beer.  Once you figure out your major add-in, you pair the others around it.

Last night for the sake of my sanity I needed some comfort food, and I needed to cook, and I had less than an hour to cook and eat it in.  I made a mustard and aged-cheddar bacon mac casserole, with the funky crunchy breadcumbs atop.

“E, what’s with the aged cheddar?  That’s expensive shit.”  Yes I know, my friends.  But my mother is a devotee and regular pilgrim to Costco.  She returned with a massive brick of insanely delicious aged pale cheddar and now I am terrified that mold will happen because I didn’t eat enough of it.  So the more I use it the less it costs.  Or the less I waste.  Sometimes I think we need to be more concerned about wasting the money we spend than spending.  It’s only a waste if you didn’t use it or need it.

So here’s where my extras went in – added a little white and cayenne pepper into the white sauce.  When the cheese plastic fully melted, I added a blurt of mild and creamy dijon mustard.  When the noodles were fully coated in the sauce, I added coarsely grated cheddar and stirred it in until I felt like there was enough.  Heated the little oven to 425, greased a casserole dish bigger than I needed.  I always use larger dishes because I like a flatter mac, gets crispier.  I flatten the mac into an even layer, garnish with inch-wide pieces of crispy bacon, top with a thin layer of cheddar, spray with cooking spray and then sprinkle with breadcrumbs from the kit.  The pack says to sprinkle these on after you take it out of the oven, but I say that’s bullshit.  My way you get a textured crunchy top where the breadcrumbs cook right on because the cooking spray glues them there.

And for the love of God, don’t stop when the cheese is melting.  Stop when the cheese is bubbling and browning.  You’ll thank me for it.  Let it rest a little once it’s out of the oven, so the cheese can grab back onto the noodles.  Eat leftover bacon while you wait.

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