I Made It!
Running low on ideas I called out to Twitter the other day to ask what I should make tonight. The first suggestion to come back was a baked macaroni and cheese, so I made
macaroni and cheese, with kielbasa and mustard, again on a suggestion from Cooks Illustrated. Because screw cutting up hot dogs, that’s why.
Start with some prep work on the cheese, grating half a pound of sharp cheddar and half a pound of Monterey Jack. Don’t be lazy and use pre-shredded cheese; it tastes awful and it’s only going to make it more expensive.
Next, the pasta: four quarts water boiling in a large pot; add a pound of elbow macaroni; cook for about eight minutes, until just past the usual al dente mark. Drain into a colander.
While the water heats and the macaroni boils, tear up six pieces of hearty white sandwich bread into a food processor, along with three tablespoons of cold butter cut into small pieces. Pulse the processor until you’ve made some fine bread crumbs. Leave the other five tablespoons of butter from the stick out to warm up a bit on the counter.
Also while the macaroni boils, quarter half a pound of kielbasa lengthwise before cutting it into half-inch pieces, and finely chop a medium onion. Once the macaroni is drained, toss the butter you left out into the pot over medium-high heat until it starts to foam. Add the onion and cook until it begins to brown.
If you remember the roux from the sausage gravy, that’s what we’re about to do next, only with this butter and onion instead of the sausage and bacon drippings. Add six tablespoons of flour, a teaspoon and a half of powdered mustard, and a quarter teaspoon of cayenne if you want it. Stir it all together until the mixture starts to darken and turn fragrant, then start gradually whisking in five cups of milk.
Bring this mixture to a boil, whisking it pretty constantly so you’re sure it’s actually boiling all the way through. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for about five minutes until it’s about as thick as heavy cream. Turn off the heat and mix in the cheeses and half a teaspoon of salt until the cheeses melt completely.
Place an oven rack in the lower-middle position and light the broiler so it has time to come up to full heat. Turn the stove back up to medium-low, add back in the macaroni, the kielbasa, and four teaspoons of whole-grain Dijon mustard to the cheese sauce, stirring until the mixture is steaming hot again. Pour it all out into a broiler-safe 9-by-13 baking dish and cover with the bread crumbs. Place under the broiler until the crumbs are golden brown, about three to five minutes. Serve with celery salt and tabasco.