Somehow, simple comforting nursery food is just what’s needed for Christmas Eve supper. How about a delicious dish of bubbling mac’ and cheese or croque monsieur (they too can be prepped ahead).
Everyone’s Favourite Mac and Cheese
Mac and cheese is a bit like apple crumble, simple fare but everyone loves it, plus you can add lots of tasty bits to ‘zhuzh’ it up. Maybe a few cubes of smoky bacon, mackerel, chorizo or a layer of melted leeks to the sauce.
225g (8oz) macaroni or ditalini
50g (2oz) butter
150g (5oz) onion, finely chopped
50g (2oz) plain flour
850ml (scant 1 1/2 pints) boiling whole milk OR 700ml (1 1/4 pints) milk and 150ml (1/4 pint) pint cream
1/4 teaspoon Dijon or English mustard
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley (optional)
225g (8oz) freshly grated mature Cheddar cheese or a mix of Cheddar, Gruyère and Parmesan
25g (1oz) freshly grated Cheddar or Parmesan cheese, for sprinkling on top (optional)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Bring 3.4 litres (6 pints) water to the boil in a large saucepan and add 2 teaspoons of salt. Sprinkle in the macaroni and stir to make sure it doesn’t stick together. Cook according to the packet instructions until al dente. Drain well.
Meanwhile, melt the butter over a gentle heat, add the chopped onion, stir to coat, cover and sweat over a gentle heat for 6–8 minutes until sweet and mellow. Add the flour and cook over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 1–2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Whisk the milk in gradually, season well with salt and pepper, then return to the boil, stirring constantly. Add the mustard, parsley, if using, and cheese. Add the well-drained macaroni and return to the boil. Season to taste and serve immediately.
Alternatively, turn into a 1.2 litre (2 pint) pie dish and sprinkle the extra grated cheese over the top. Bake at 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for 15–20 minutes.
Good things to do with leftover Mac & Cheese
* Mac & Cheese Fritters
You can’t imagine how sinfully delish this is…
Heat olive oil in a deep-fat fryer at 180°C (350°F) or a deep saucepan with 5–7.5cm (2–3 inch) depth of oil. Roll the leftover mac and cheese into ping-pong-sized balls. Roll in seasoned flour, beaten eggs and fresh white or panko crumbs to coat. Fry for 4–5 minutes until crisp on the outside and melting in the interior. Remove with a slotted spoon, drain on kitchen paper and toss in freshly grated Parmesan. Serve with spicy mayo made by mixing 110ml (4fl oz) homemade mayonnaise with teaspoons of sriracha, 2 teaspoons of sambal oelek or harissa and lemon juice to taste. Alternatively, allow the baked mac and cheese to get cold in the gratin dish. Cut into fingers or squares, dip in seasoned flour, egg and breadcrumbs and shallow-fry in olive oil for 3–4 minutes until crisp and golden on both sides. Serve with a dipping sauce or with the spicy mayo.
* Smoked Salmon or Smoked Mackerel or Chorizo
Add 225g (8oz) smoked salmon or smoked mackerel or chorizo dice to the mac and cheese before serving. Add lots of chopped parsley too.