It’s been quiet here, for too long. Christmas and Hanukkah slipped by without a hello, or a recipe. The new year rang in without a word. We’re a ways into January, now, and the site has remained dormant. Still and silent, like an early winter morning—one that’s been blanketed in a fresh coat of sparkling snow. The same cannot be said about my real life, the offline one, which had been consumed by work. I emerged on Sunday after a major deadline, and I’m slowly readjusting to a more normal pace of life.
It’s been nice.
Before Sunday, during the weeks that disappeared in what felt like moments, I was relying heavily on a stable of go-to recipes. All the while, the new cookbooks I’d received for Christmas and the cooking magazines to which I subscribe piled up. There was no room for new recipes, so instead we shopped for our regular ingredients, quickly cooked our standby dinners, and ate them up hungrily. The new recipes would be there in January.
But, I still haven’t gotten to those cookbooks and magazines. On Sunday, when I finally had the time and energy to cook something new, a thought jumped into my mind, and it wouldn’t budge: stovetop mac and cheese. My mind’s eye could see a bowl of curly noodles bathed in a smooth cheese sauce—warm and rich and familiar and comforting. So, I made it happen.
I think I’m going to like this slower pace.
Happy new year, friends.
Stovetop Mac & Cheese
Yield: 6 servings
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3/4 pound small shell pasta or elbow macaroni
4 cups coarsely grated sharp yellow cheddar (3/4 pound)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium; add onion and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Add flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring frequently, until mixture is pale golden, has a slightly nutty aroma, and is the texture of cooked oatmeal, about 5 minutes.
Whisking constantly, pour in 2 cups milk; add 2 more cups milk and cayenne and whisk until smooth. Cook mixture, stirring constantly along bottom of pan, until boiling, 6 to 7 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens and does not feel grainy when a small amount is rubbed between two fingers, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta until al dente; drain thoroughly and return to pot. Remove sauce from heat and let cool 10 minutes. Quickly whisk in cheese, mustard, and Worcestershire. Pour cheese sauce over pasta and stir to coat.