For my friend Danish’s birthday yesterday, a few of us decided there’s no better way to treat him than to make him food and watch basketball (actually, I think the basketball part was a treat for me some of us more than the birthday boy himself).
Sharaf made steaks, Sanila baked delicious red velvet cupcakes, Waqas handled the chai, and Fauzia made what I was told were “slutty brownies” (I won’t even try to explain the metaphor there). I decided it would be a good opportunity to make a dish that I’ve recently been craving since my friend Archana made for me a couple years ago: baked mac n’ cheese (yes, I just made Danish’s birthday about me). It also made sense as a side dish to the steaks, and a nice precursor to the desserts. And honestly, who doesn’t like mac n’ cheese?
This also makes a great menu item if you’re already thinking ahead to Thanksgiving. There’s a lot of moving parts to the recipe but it’s pretty easy to make. The original recipe is from Barefoot Contessa‘s catalogue, but I made it with the slight spice-modifications that Arch did (namely, adding minced jalapenos and chili powder which adds a nice kick to it).
And by the way, no one mentions how hard it is to find gruyere cheese! Well at least I had to go to three different grocery stores to find it. Stupid NY. (Sidenote: this also might be due to the fact that I wasn’t confident enough in my ability to pronounce ‘gruyere’ correctly to ask for it when I was at the store).
1 pound elbow macaroni or cavatappi
1 quart milk
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
½ cup all-purpose flour
16 ounces Gruyere, grated (I got two blocks of 8 oz cheese)
8 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (2 cups)
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon of chili powder
3/4 pound fresh tomatoes (4 small)
2 jalapeno peppers (minced)
1 ½ cups fresh white bread crumbs (5 slices, crusts removed..I used more like 8 though! See how much you need as you go)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the macaroni and cook according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well.
Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don’t boil it. Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a large (4-quart) pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk.
While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth. Turn off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, 1 tablespoon salt, pepper, ½ teaspoon of chili powder and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and jalapenos and stir well. Pour into a 3-quart baking dish.
Slice the tomatoes and arrange on top. In a separate pan, first melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, combine them with the fresh bread crumbs, and sprinkle on the top (note: because I ended up using more slices, I also needed about 2 more tbsp of butter to dress it with).
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.
It turned out well for the first time making it, I think. And PS, if you really want to get guests in the birthday-celebrating mood, make them all wear tattoos of your face like so:
Trippy right? And so fun. Although, not gonna lie, it was kinda weird waking up and seeing Danish’s face staring back at me first thing in the morning. Customized temporary tattoos by Wakhtarrr Paper Company. Check em out! etsy.com/shop/wakhtarrr
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