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Baked Macaroni and Cheese

An Easter Season favorite…Baked Macaroni and Cheese
 
Whenever we have a gang over for a holiday or festivity, I often make baked macaroni and cheese as one of our favorites.  The recipe I’ve used makes servings for 15 people and that’s a bit much for just Bill and I, but with a crowd, it goes in no time.  It also goes great with ham or lamb or roast chicken or just about anything.  I also have to admit, it is not an original recipe, but one I found via Martha Stewart years ago, and adapted a bit, but it has become a family favorite ever since.  I also found, on those rare occasions when there are leftovers (ask any of my kids…I still tend to cook too much), this recipe freezes well.  So, one can put away leftovers in double serving size containers and then just pull them out for a couple of servings.  Years ago, too, one of my daughters gave me this 7 qt., 14 and ½ inch Calphalon pan as a gift and it handles this recipe just perfectly.  If you don’t have one that large, you can use something similar or use two dishes.  Enjoy!
 
8 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons butter
Olive oil to coat pan
6 slices day old home made white bread, cut into ½ inch pieces
5 ½ - 6 cups milk
½ cup flour
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
6 cups grated white cheddar cheese
2 cups (8 ounces) grated or cubed Gruyere cheese
1 and ½ pounds elbow macaroni (I like the large elbows)
 
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
 
In a small pan melt 2 tablespoons of butter.  When melted, drizzle over torn bread pieces to coat.  Set aside.
 
Boil 6-7 quarts of salted water and cook macaroni to al dente.  Drain and rinse with cool running water.  Oil the serving dish with olive oil, including the sides.  Transfer macaroni to pan, toss a bit and set aside.
 
In a large kettle, warm the 6 cups of milk; no not boil.  
 
In a large iron skillet (I like iron skillets, though any large skillet will do), melt the 6 tablespoons of remaining butter.  Add the flour and whisk one minute.  Gradually add the milk one cup at a time and continue whisking until blended and creamy.  As one is adding the milk, stir until each cup is blended and the mixture becomes thickened and then add another cup of milk.  When all milk is added, begin adding cheese, one package at a time.  Most grated cheese comes in 2-cup packages, so adding 1-2 cups of cheese at a time is fine.  When cheese melts, add the second package and then the third.  Add the Gruyere cheese last, either grated or cut into cubes.  Stir until melted.   Add the nutmeg and peppers and stir once more.  Pour the cheese mixture into the pan with the macaroni (you might need some help here if using iron skillets, because the skillet will be large and heavy and full of hot cheese sauce).  With a wooden spoon, gently mix the cheese sauce throughout the macaroni, coating all sides.  Top with butted bread cubes and put into oven.  Bake about 30-40 minutes until bread crumbs are brown and crispy and cheese mixture is bubbling.  Remove from oven and let set a bit for about 5 minutes.  Serve.

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