This Ain't Your Grandma's Mac & Cheese

It's FREEZING here. This is what it looks like for us

....only, not as sunny.

I think the HIGH for today is going to be 18 degrees, and it feels more like 10 degrees out. And, when it gets COLD like this, all I want to to put on the table at night, is something that is a casserole dish full of hot, chewy, gooey, cheesy goodness. There is nothing in my arsenal of recipes that fits the bill for my taste-buds other than my homemade Mac & Cheese. But, wait - this is not your Grandma's Homemade Mac & Cheese....This is Townsend Bakery Mac & Cheese. *bobs head up and down*

Now...I don't always make it like this. Every now and again, I want something different. When I made this, as my cheese sauce was melting away doing it things on the stove and the water was bubbling next to it as it cooked the pasta - I decided that I wanted, no, needed, a bit of crunch to balance out the cheesy goodness. Adding the topping to this does just that.

Now....if you want to try to be somewhat healthy with this reciepie...you could use Olive Oil (EVOO) instead of the butter I used. But, then again, I love butter, I love to cook with butter, and well, I think this had been established several posts ago. Therefore, you have all had sufficent warning.

Also, I tend to make my cheese sauce with a mixture of milk and either heavy cream or half & half (which ever is in the fridge at the moment). The velvety texture the cream gives to your cheese sauce can just not be duplicated by milk alone. This is not to say that you can't make this recipe with just milk. I have, especially when using that last of the cream means that there will be none for my morning coffee. Please just make sure you do it with either - whole or 2% - NOT skim....as, because, well, what is the point of making a sinfully delicious stick to your ribs and make your ass grow three sizes just by looking at it mac & cheese if your going to use skim milk?

And, this stuff is soo good and so addicting...you will find yourself sneaking bites of it every single time to go into the kitchen long after dinner is over. Actually, you might find yourself making excuses to go into the kitchen. Not that I would know anything about doing that.......

Homemade Mac & Cheese with Ham
1.5 cups of Heavy cream or Half & Half
1.5 cups of Milk (Whole or 2%)
1 Stick of Butter
1/3 cup of flour
3.5 cups of WHITE Sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded
1 - 1.5 pounds of cooked, cubed ham - (I just go to the deli and ask them for a thick, slab like cut of my favorite ham and then cut it into chunks)
1 pound of Pasta, cooked (I typically use Barillas Cellentani Pasta)

Start by making a roux (melt in a large pan, add the flour, cook together for a few minutes until a light toasty brown in color). Whisk in milk until all the roux has disappeared. Then stir in your cream. Continue whisking over a moderate heat until the mixture has thickened. (Do not leave unattended - and DO NOT BOIL THE MIXTURE, as there is nothing nastier than boiled and scorched bechamel sauce). Once thickened, stir in cheese. Once the cheese has melted into the milk/cream mixture, add in ham and pasta.

Pour into a greased or buttered 9X13 inch casserole dish.

Crunchy Topping:
4 - 5 Tablespoons of Butter, melted
1 cups of Italian Seasoned Breadcrumbs
1/2 cup of WHITE Sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded

Place butter in a heat proof microwave bowl and melt. It takes about 30 seconds depending on your microwave. Mix in breadcrumbs until you get a nice crumbly mixture. Fold in cheese. Sprinkle crunchy topping mixture over Mac & Cheese. Pop into a 400 degree oven for 25 - 30 minutes, until bubbly and topping is a crispy golden brown.