|Wisconsin-style Macaroni and Cheese, on my grandmother's dishtowel.|
We have sprung forward and are less than two weeks away from the spring equinox. The weather is showing slight signs of improving. I have a blocked eustachian tube, which is exquisitely painful in fits and starts, especially, for some reason, when I come in from the cold. There is, apparently, not much to be done other than what I am already doing.
Comfort food is in order.
What could be more comforting than macaroni and cheese?
For inspiration, I turned to this macaroni and cheese site from the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, and then came up with my own recipe, using what cheese I had on hand, and inspired by this recipe. I lightened it, skipped the bacon and added some Badger red in the form of red pepper.
Baked Macaroni and Cheese, Wisconsin Style
- 1 pound elbow macaroni (I use Dreamfields pasta; lower in carbs)
- 4 cups organic, low-sodium chicken broth
- 5 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons sweet onion, minced
- 2 tablespoons red pepper, minced
- 2 cups half-and-half (I reduced this to 1 and 1/2 cup, with no problems)
- 8 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese, cubed
- 1 teaspoon Ruth Ann's Muskego Avenue seasoning from Penzeys*
- 1 cup low-fat cheddar cheese, grated
- 3/4 cup apple-smoked gouda cheese, grated
- 1 cup beer cheese curds, grated
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese for topping
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Prepare the macaroni according to package directions, using sodium broth instead of water. Drain, reserving chicken broth, and set aside.
In large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onions and pepper, and sauté until onions are golden, about 2-3 minutes. Slowly add half-and-half and whisk. Add cream cheese and seasoning. stir until cream cheese melts, then slowly add reserved chicken broth (I didn't add more than two cups, but the original recipe calls for three). Add grated cheeses, one cup at a time, adjusting the heat if necessary.
Blend in the macaroni and transfer to a casserole. Bake for 25 minutes, adding Parmesan cheese topping midway through the baking process. Remove from oven when Parmesan has melted.
The end results was tangy and faintly smoky, not unlike the Wisconsin woods on a spring day. This recipe is definitely a keeper for me.
The beer-cheese curds were from Laack Brothers Cheese, located in Greenleaf, Wis., directly south of Green Bay, and the Parmesan was Frigo Cheese, a brand founded regionally but now owned by Saputo. The apple-smoked Gouda was from Red Apple Cheese but crafted in Wisconsin.
* Ruth Ann's Muskego Avenue Seasoning, a sample of which was included in my recent Penzeys order, includes salt, black pepper, garlic, lemon peel and onion. It is recommended for chicken, fish, asparagus, green beans, eggs and potatoes. It added a zip to my macaroni and cheese. Muskego Avenue is a semi-commercial thoroughfare, running northeast-southwest on the near west side of Milwaukee. I'm not especially familiar with this neighborhood, but it looks pleasantly funky and gritty to me. I have no idea who Ruth Ann is, however.