My mother-in-law was a wonderful cook. When I first moved to New Orleans, I was unfamiliar with a lot of the foods that I love now – grits, smothered pork chops and red beans. Mrs. M introduced me to gumbo, homemade eggnog (my husband won’t drink anything but her recipe) and baked mac ‘n’ cheese.
Every holiday, Mrs. M start would cook the night before so everything was ready for the family the next day. My sister-in-law still does this – closing down the kitchen so she can cook up a storm. Now, in Washington, we have holiday staples like mashed potatoes and green bean casserole. Not in New Orleans. Mrs. M made stuffed peppers, baked mac ‘n’ cheese and gumbo along with the ham. I’ve kept the mac ‘n’ cheese tradition alive up here in the north – I make it for every holiday.
And lucky you, this time I documented it.
It’s actually a really simple recipe. You need a pound of macaroni pasta, a brick of Velveeta, a small amount of milk and some shredded cheese.
While your pasta is cooking, cube up your Velveeta. Yes, use the entire brick.
Now, you have to be a bit careful melting this cheese. Keep it over low heat and stir, stir, stir! I add a small bit of milk (just enough to cover the bottom with a thin layer of milk) so that when the Velveeta melts, it is super creamy. Not too much milk though. Unfortunately, I don’t measure but it could be about 1/2 to 3/4 cup milk.
You might feel like you want to turn up the heat. DON’T! It burns easily if you aren’t watching it and believe me, it tastes nasty burnt.
After about 15 minutes or so, it is going to look like this.
Next, pour this goodness over your noodles and stir it all up.
Add a handful or two of shredded cheese on top. I just a Monterey jack and Colby mix for everything but you can use any shredded cheese you want.
It goes into a preheated 400 degree oven. Bake until the cheese is melted and nice and bubbly – about 20 – 30 minutes.
You can do so much to this recipe too. My family likes it just this way but you could add some broccoli. Or maybe some bacon pieces. Oh yeah, that would be delicious! This year I did make a gluten-free pasta version and no one knew the difference. Even my son who swears he can tell what is gluten-free and what isn’t.
Every so often, something takes me back to New Orleans and to that kitchen with Mrs. M. I love that this dish or the smell of the nutmeg in Dereck’s homemade eggnog can bring her to the forefront in my mind. We lost her over 11 years ago now. It’s just another reason why I made this dish. I hope she would be happy to see that her grandkids get to enjoy her food legacy.
Now, if only I could master the gumbo.