Shortly after I arrived in Austria, Peter introduced me to the Macaroni and Cheese that is known here. It had Macaroni noodles… And some cheese in it. But it was more like a casserole, with meat and tomato sauce mixed in with the noodles and cheese.
It was really good. But it wasn’t Macaroni and Cheese.
It didn’t take long for me to show him my version of Macaroni and Cheese and he discovered the phenomenon known as the Southern Comfort Food Syndrome.
Well. I don’t know if it actually has a name… but it is VERY real.
Just try this Mac and Cheese, either of the two ways, and you too will come to know SCFS.
Consider it a baby step into bliss.
MACARONI & CHEESE
Elbow Pasta / Macaroni Noodles / Hörnchennudeln – whatever you call it – for this, I used about 2-3 CUPS / 300 grams to 400 grams
2 TBSP / 2 Esslöffel BUTTER
2 TBSP / 2 Esslöffel FLOUR / GLATT MEHL
1 1/2 Cup / 250 ml MILK – Maybe more, but start with that.
2 cups or more of Cheddar Cheese (depending on how much comfort you need)
1 package of SOUR CREAM / SAUERRAHM
Salt and pepper to taste
1TBSP / 1 Esslöffel – Dried Rosemary ground finely / Rosemarin – gemahlen
1tsp / 1 Teelöffel – Dried Marjoram ground finely / gemahlen
A tiny bit of dried Thyme / Thymian – just a little pinch
NOT REQUIRED BUT GOOD IF YOU HAVE IT – Fresh grated Parmesan Cheese to go on the top.
Heat your oven to °375 F – °200C
Cook your Macaroni in salted, boiling water to al dente – but if you get distracted and it goes a bit further, use it anyway, you will miss out on some of the texture, but it will still taste good.
While your Macaroni is cooking – grate your Cheddar Cheese if it is not already grated or shredded – I have seen a couple of packages of grated Cheddar at stores in Vienna, but I like to grate my own.
When your pasta is done, drain it and leave the drained pasta in a large bowl and set it aside.
Use the same pot you cooked your pasta in (we get to use a bit of the starch that was cooked out of the pasta and it’s one less dish to wash.)
Put your Butter in the pot and heat it over medium heat.
As soon as it commits to melting, put your flour /Glatt Mehl in with the butter and stir it around like you are making a béchamel sauce.
In case you have never made a béchamel, stir your butter and flour around. You are looking for the texture of wet sand and to suddenly smell a distinct nutty smell.
When you smell that nutty smell, immediately pour half of your milk in and start whisking it quickly.
It will start to come together and thicken up, pour a little more of your milk and a little more, until you get a sauce texture; thick, but liquidy.
This is as it is thickening, before I add some more milk.
And this is it after I had added some more milk (more than I expected to), and it came to the correct texture.
Salt and pepper to taste and start tossing in your grated cheese. I am using a mixture of a 15 month aged English Cheddar and a 9 month aged English Cheddar. I think it really tastes good that way. BE SURE TO LEAVE SOME CHEESE FOR TOPPING.
Your sauce will be almost chunky at first, but have faith in yourself and keep whisking. It will eventually smooth out and be a luscious Cheese Sauce.
Taste it! It’s good! If you were my children, this would be as far as you would go.
When you buy the ready made mac and cheese in the states, you get a packet of noodles to boil and package of Cheese sauce. You cook the noodles and then squeeze the cheese sauce over them.
So, even making the homemade version, this is the texture they like.
But I like to make it the old school way from when I was little.
Stir your Rosemary /Rosemarin and Marjoram and little pinch of Thyme / Thymian into the Cheese Sauce and then pour it over your drained macaroni in the bowl that you had set aside.
Stir it all together, being sure to really get the cheese sauce all over the Macaroni.
Then stir in your Sour Cream / SAUERRAHM and mix it well.
Pour your Mac and cheese into your baking dish and smooth it out. Sprinkle it with leftover Cheddar and then, if you have it, your Parmesan on top of that.
Bake in the oven, uncovered, for 20 to 25 minutes.
When the cheese on top is starting to brown and/ or crisp up a bit, take it out and let it sit for at least 10 minutes.
I know it’s hard, but it needs time to set up.
If you have more than 10 minutes, that would be great, the longer it sits there, the more it will set up and look lovely on a plate.
I have never been able to wait that long. It’s ugly, but it still tastes like heaven!
As I said, Southern Comfort Food Syndrome is real, well, in my mind it is… and in my belly.
But for me, Fall and Winter and cold, grey days require a bit of Southern Comfort Food.