When my mother's little brother, Tom was a young lad, he left the harrowed streets of New York City and chased a job down in Texas. There, he met his first wife. The marriage didn't last but ironically enough his first wife gave my family something more powerful than vows about death do you part.
She gave us southern-style Macaroni and Cheese.
Now this was no easy feat. My mother constantly harangued her sister in law trying to find out exactly how the recipe worked. What was in that baked golden cheesy goodness? What is this mysterious sauce? Like most people my mother believe macaroni and cheese was covered in breadcrumbs, right? That's how we do it above the Mason Dixon line and it's certainly never been a problem. But what my aunt made was something entirely different. Something creamy and crunchy at the same time - with an crust unlike anything my family had known. After weeks of harassment she finally relented.
So here you go: My Ex-Aunt's Famous Southern-Style Macaroni and Cheese
1 package of elbow noodles
2 - 2 1/2 bricks of extra sharp cheddar (nothing BUT extra sharp), grated
flour (we'll get into quantities later. This isn't science. It's an art)
Preheat oven to 350. Cook the noodles until they are al dente. Strain and set aside. Grate the cheese. On average we use about 2 - 2 1/2 bricks but it's not a bad thing to have a little on the plate to pick at while you're cooking. What? It's cheese for pete's sake!
EDIT: My husband just reminded me to remind you guys to spray the bottom of the pan with a non-stick spray. Guess what I always forget to to do?
Layer the noodles and cheese in a 2 1/2 quart corning ware dish. First noodles, then sprinkle on the cheese, then noodles, the cheese. You get it, right? End with cheese.
It should look like this:
Now here's the tricky part. Making the sauce.
So there's no real quantity here. Basically pour some milk into a sauce pan (you don't need a ton, you're only going to pour it over what you got here. I would say maybe a cup and a spit) add some butter (like a spoonful or two) and heat it over a low flame (enough to melt the butter). Then add flour (2 tablespoons or so) until it's a thick white sauce. You need to keep stirring the thing the whole time. Too much flour and it will go chunky. You can undo that by adding more milk. You don't want it too runny or too thick. Like Goldilocks says, make it "just right." Toss in some salt and pepper.
(When my husband makes this - he adds Parmesan cheese - just in case the TWO BRICKS of extra sharp aren't enough. That said, it's delicious. When my mother makes it she puts the butter in first. I start with the milk. *shrug* As long as you get something like what's pictured below you're fine.)
Dribble the sauce over the dish. Use a knife to puncture the layers so that it drips down a bit. You just sort of stick the knife in and wiggle it about a bit so that the stuff seeps down. (Can you tell I've never written a recipe before?)
Your end result will look something like this:
Toss it in the oven. I usually let it cook for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. I peek around 45 minutes to see if it's getting nice and brown. It really depends on how crunchy and burnt you want the top to be. On average, when I pull it out, it looks something like this:
So there you go. There's the recipe that my mother had to beg and plead to get my ex-Aunt to share. And I just put it on the Internet.
Ain't family grand?
Happy eating, kids.
In keeping with Ally's family recipe gig, I'm going to share one that my mother passed down to me. It is pretty simple and I don't really have an exact recipe to follow. My mother didn't really pass it down either. I just watched patiently every time she made it until it was committed to memory. It is a dish called Shepherd's Pie. In history is was known as a Cottage Pie and stems from British history. It is basic, a meat pie (usually lamb), crusted with mashed potatoes. It is a hearty dish. It feels like home.
My mother passed away in January and family decided they wanted to meet at my grandmother's. She was not up to making food so I told her I would make a Shepherd's Pie. It is simple and can feed many. She told me that she had never had this dish and that my mother had promised her over the years she would make it for her. My mother never got that chance, so in her honor at her wake dinner, I made this glorious dish of my childhood. It struck me funny really as I had always thought the dish was passed down from my grandmother to my mother. In the end, it is our dish--something of a tradition we created in our own family that I keep current in mine.
Ground Beef (how much depends on the casserole dish you are using and how many you are feeding. A pound will feed about 4)
2 cans of yellow corn, drained
Mashed Potatoes (again, how many potatoes you need depends on the casserole dish. I always have leftovers, they always get eaten)
Preheat oven 350 degrees.
In a skillet, brown the ground beef until fully cooked. Season with salt and pepper. Drain the grease from the beef. Line the beef in the bottom of the casserole dish.
While the meat is cooking, start the potatoes for the mash. Make your mashed potatoes as you would for any function. This is what makes each Shepherd's Pie unique.
Layer the 2 cans of drained corn over the beef evenly. Spread the prepared mashed potatoes over the corn.Spread a little semi-melted butter over the potatoes before placing in the oven. Place the pie in the oven for about 20-30 minutes. You are basically re-heating the dish. Serve and watch your guests hanker for more.