While most of the Christmas-celebrating country was eating a fancy roast or goose or turkey, we were feasting on mac & cheese. It’s what happens when your Christmas is tradition-free.
We’ve spent the past few Christmases with our neighbors – it usually involves a pot of chili, copious amounts of booze, and lots of inappropriate jokes. We wear comfy clothes and slippers and it’s always a lot of fun.
This year Assana and Dan abandoned us to go visit family (the nerve!), so it was just Larry and Chris and I. Chris made giant meatballs with a sauce to go with them, plus a big salad. I made the mac & cheese and hand pies. Who says Christmas dinner has to be fancy?
The mac and cheese was my first dive into Modernist Cuisine at Home. I was a little scared, but the ingredient list is thankfully small (milk, cheese, macaroni… and sodium citrate). I bought the sodium citrate online. Sounds scary, but it’s just a sodium salt of the citric acid found in citrus fruits. It’s also an emulsifier, so its job was to bring the milk and cheese together into a creamy bath for the macaroni.
I like that this recipe eliminates the need for flour in the sauce. The main problem with most mac & cheese recipes is that the flour adds a texture and flavor that I don’t like… and it can get gummy.
I couldn’t believe how easy this was. Heat the milk and a tiny amount of sodium citrate, then blend in the grated cheese. Fold the sauce into the macaroni, and that’s it. The sauce is amazingly creamy, and since it’s just milk and cheese the kind of cheese you use really matters, flavor-wise. I used a sharp aged Cheddar, but I’m looking forward to experimenting with different combinations of cheese.
It still set up a bit as it cooled – it’s cheese, in the end. But even the cooled pasta didn’t feel chunky or grainy in the mouth – it’s smooth as silk, and has a texture like the elusive Kraft of my childhood. And leftover, it’s not the same as fresh, but it’s still got a really nice texture.