Think childhood, warm fuzzy memories and comfort, and chances are macaroni and cheese comes to mind. Never mind that the mac 'n' cheese of our childhood may have come in a box with an orange powder.
At my first annual "Take Comfort!" party on Saturday, macaroni and cheese was the star attraction. My rich, creamy version of the perennial favorite requires only slightly more effort than the orange stuff in a box. You don't even need to cook the macaroni in advance; just stir the hard noodles right into the cheese, milk and cottage cheese concoction.
This recipe for Creamy Macaroni and Cheese first appeared in the January 4, 2006, issue of the New York Times and spent weeks as the number-one most emailed article. I don't know what this said about the State of the Union, but Americans were apparently in need of the healing power of cheese.
Creamy Macaroni and Cheese
Published: January 4, 2006
Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup cottage cheese (not lowfat)
2 cups milk (not skim)
1 teaspoon dry mustard
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound sharp or extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1⁄2 pound elbow pasta, uncooked.
1. Heat oven to 375 degrees and position an oven rack in upper third of oven. Use 1 tablespoon butter to butter a 9-inch round or square baking pan.
2. In a blender, purée cottage cheese, milk, mustard, cayenne, nutmeg and salt and pepper together. Reserve 1⁄4 cup grated cheese for topping. In a large bowl, combine remaining grated cheese, milk mixture and uncooked pasta. Pour into prepared pan, cover tightly with foil and bake 30 minutes.
3. Uncover pan, stir gently, sprinkle with reserved cheese and dot with remaining tablespoon butter. Bake, uncovered, 30 minutes more, until browned. Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
For the ultimate comfort, follow the lead of one Take Comfort! guest and hop into your favorite pair of froggie slippers, slip on your zebra-print socks and pour yourself a glass of Shiraz.