I love mac & cheese.
Origins of this mac & cheese post and recipe began when, one evening, I was trying to track down on the web a great creamy mac & cheese recipe. I craved something that would take me back to my childhood; a nice creamy velvety macaroni & cheese. Alas, I couldn’t find a recipe that satisfied both my childhood fondness for the dish and my adult palate. Variations of a baked mac & cheese casserole is mostly what’s published on the net. Since macaroni and cheese casserole isn’t my favorite, I set off to develop a homemade mac and cheese recipe that’d satisfy the needs of both my inner kid and my beer lovin’ lifestyle.
Most time-honored Macaroni and cheese recipes tend to be of the oven-baked casserole variety. I find these baked versions tend to range from dry to extra-dry. Their creamy cheese texture is completely lost. Although some people may like this, I’m not fond of dried out mac and cheese. I like it cheesy and gooey.
Macaroni and Cheese Recipes are not Created Equal.
The roots of the American mac and cheese recipe can be traced a few hundred years ago when Thomas Jefferson and his personal chef, James Hemings, brought back America’s first Macaroni and cheese recipe from Paris – at the completion of his ambassadorship in France. He later served this ‘macaroni pie’ dish at a state dinner which became the spark for its popularity.
The Three Styles of the Macaroni and Cheese
The Baked Casserole Mac and Cheese
Variations of this recipe can be traced back hundreds of years to the original mac ‘n cheese goddess. This style is the closest to what Jefferson brought back from Europe. Again, although this style may be closest to the original recipe, I’m not a fan favorite of this recipe category.
The instant Mac and Cheese from a box
Yes, this is what we all made and ate as kids and college students. The small box of noodles and packet of dried cheese sauce (but is it really cheese?), with a little milk and butter (unbelievably, box instructions still recommends margarine) you something that tastes and smells like mac and cheese. I loved and lived off this stuff in college. However, with just a little more effort (and slightly enhanced budget) you can live large with this kick-ass mac’n cheese recipe I have for you below.
The Homemade Stovetop Creamy Mac ‘n Cheese
This is the style where all the ingredients are combined and cooked on the stove top. The noodles completely avoid the oven, which tend to make the dish dry and pasty. When I think of cheesy comfort food, this is the mac and cheese I crave.
Homemade Creamy Mac and Cheese for Grownups
I will admit, the thought of indulging in this childhood food is actually better than the real thing. Most macaroni and cheese recipes I loved as a kid just don’t cut it now that I’m an adult. My tastes are more sophisticated. I’m always seeking food that has depth with complex flavors. So, after many recipe trials, I’ve come up with the following Beer, Bratwurst Macaroni and Cheese recipe. Enjoy.
Beer Bratwurst Mac and Cheese Recipe
- 1/2 16 oz. package elbow macaroni dried
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1 clove Garlic large clove, minced
- 1/4 cup flour all-purpose
- 1 TBSP Dijon Mustard
- 1 tsp Salt
- 2 tsp pepper black
- 2 cups 2% milk
- 3/4 cup Amber or Lager Beer
- 3 cups shredded Cheddar cheese (approx. 8 oz)
- 2 TBSP Parmesan or Romano shredded cheese
- 2 links Bratwurst
- Prep and measure all ingredients first and set aside.
- Cook bratwurst until done and keep warm in oven at 170 degrees F.
- Salt large pot of water and bring to boil. Cook noodles to al dente per instructions on package.
- When noodles are cooking; in large frying pan on medium heat, add all butter and bring to simmer. Saute garlic for 1 minute. Then, stir in flour, mustard, salt and pepper until smooth. Then, gradually stir in milk and beer until slightly thickened.
- Sitr in cheddar cheese until melted.
- Drain macaroni noodles. Then stir into cheese sauce. Continue to stir cheese and noodles until just before desired thickness. Remove from heat. Sauce will continue to thicken as dish cools.
- Slice sausage into thin meddallions and then stir into macaroni and cheese. Top dish with Parmesan cheese and serve.
Tips to Ensure Macaroni and Cheese success!
Prep all ingredients before cooking anything
Be sure all ingredients are at hand and ready to go prior to turning on any burner. This recipe is a flurry of activity. The recipe steps occur in rapid succession and there is no in-between time to catch up. I quickly found myself deep in the weeds the first two times I made this recipe because I didn’t properly Mise en place. Ensure everything is ready to go.
Cook the bratwurst first and keep it warm in the oven
Attempting to cook the bratwurst at the same time as the other ingredients is too much. It’ll ruin you mentally and put you in the asylum. Heed this advice… Turn on your oven to 170F. Cook the bratwurst and hold it in the warm oven. Then, attempt the next recipe steps. You’ll thank me for this advice.
Use a very large pan when making the cheese sauce
The pan used for the cheese sauce will eventually hold everything, so be sure the pan is BIG. Each time I undertake this recipe I find myself questioning whether my pan is large enough at the most critical moment.
Also, if you plan to use the same pan for cooking both the bratwurst and the cheese sauce, clean out the sausage grease before making the cheese sauce. I found out the hard way that the residual sausage oils will give the cheese sauce an unappetizing greasy texture.
Feature photo by Teresa McDaniel