By Paul Kita, senior associate editor at Men's Health
Every once and a while, it's good to indulge. In fact, indulgence is part of a healthy diet. The best eating plans are ones that operate on inclusion, not exclusion. Think about it: When someone tells you that you can't eat pizza, what does that make you want to eat?
This is why whenever I'm craving macaroni and cheese I go all out. If you like your mac 'n' cheese lightened up with butternut squash, skim milk, or reduced-fat cheese, that's fine. But I'd argue you're compromising. Give me macaroni and cheese in all its creamy, gooey, velvety glory.
See, when I was younger my dad sometimes had to play the role of chef when my mom was working a late shift. Having few kitchen skills, he'd turn to boxed mac 'n' cheese and, being a fat-fearing parent of the early-'90s, he'd leave out the butter. It never tasted as good as Mom's.
Glenn Harris, chef of The Smith in New York City, doesn't cut back on the butter in his iconic macaroni and cheese recipe. He uses whole milk and heavy cream. And he uses four--count 'em--four types of cheese. He's not apologetic about it. That's because after one bite of the stuff, you'll be silenced. You'll close your eyes. You'll chew slowly. You'll enjoy. And you'll remind yourself just how important it is, every now and then, to indulge.
Mac + Cheese
Recipe by Glenn Harris, chef/owner of The Smith in New York City
- 1 pound elbow macaroni
- 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, plus 1 Tablespoon
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 1½ cups whole milk
- 1½ cups heavy cream
- 1/3 cup grated cheddar
- 1/3 cup grated fontina
- 1/3 cup grated Gruyère
- ¼ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus ¼ cup
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. Place a medium ovenproof baking pan inside your oven and preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the macaroni until al dente, about 1 minute less than the package instructions.
3. As the pasta cooks, melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a 2-quart heavy-bottomed stockpot over medium heat. Gradually add the flour, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and turns blonde in color, for 2 to 4 minutes. Gradually add the milk and heavy cream, whisking constantly, and cook until the mixture thickens and begins to bubble, 2 to 4 minutes. Add the cheddar, fontina, Gruyère, and ¼ cup of the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Cook, stirring, until all the cheese has melted, about 1 minute.
4. Drain the macaroni and add it to the cheese mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Using oven mitts, carefully remove the hot baking dish from the oven. Butter the dish with the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Pour the macaroni and cheese into the baking dish and top with the remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano. Bake in the oven until the top is browned, about 25 minutes.
Serve immediately. Makes 8 servings.
Paul Kita is a James Beard Award-winning food and nutrition writer who edits the How to Do Everything Better section of Men's Health. He's the founder of MensHealth.com's popular food and cooking blog, Guy Gourmet. In 2013, he cowrote Guy Gourmet: Great Chefs' Amazing Meals for a Lean & Healthy Body. Kita has appeared on the Travel Channel, as well as on numerous local radio and broadcast stations.
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