February 26, 2010

Mrs. Lawler's Mac and Cheese

My roommate Soho's mother runs an excellent and charming blog, filled with tips about cleaning, cooking, home-making, and, more importantly, living an integrated happy Christian life. And mac + cheese. (Read: The. Best. Easiest. Mac + Cheese. ever. EVER.)

I used to do really really lazy mac + cheese. I'd just grate cheese over the pasta and stir it up. But the cheese would clump and the flavor would be very uneven, and it wouldn't have the lovely creaminess of a really good bowl of mac + cheese. Then Soho whipped up a batch while we were snowed in and I saw how easy this is--only two more steps than whipping in clumps of cheese, and so much tastier. Easy, and rich, and creamy, and cheesy, and perfect.

I was converted. You will be too. Get the recipe here.

Now, Mrs. Lawler's recipes are lovely because they are more like conversations than strict recipes--and they teach technique not rigorous precision. Since you don't have one of her daughters in your home to show you how its done, I advise you to take some time to read this one, (enjoy it,) learn it. Then make it once for yourself exactly as she says--so that you'll be converted. Only then are you free to modify at will--its the technique that's really revolutionary here.

(She uses sharp white cheddar, but my current favorite variation: a mix of sharp yellow cheddar and dry Parmesan, over wheat rotini, with cracked pepper, and, if its not Friday, ham. The yellow cheddar is a little mellower than the white, which suits the nuttiness of the pasta. This would be really good with spinach mixed in too. I mix in the extra ingredients at the very end.)

Oh, and, if I may highlight the one cardinal rule of Mrs. Lawler's mac + cheese recipe, which can be applied to all sorts of dishes and goes directly contrary to all my inclinations:
Important note: Do not, REPEAT -- DO NOT -- taste even so much as a sliver of cheese as you are making the dish.

The pure cheese will always make any sauce that is not pure cheese taste less than cheesy. You will enjoy the cheesiness of the sauce if you DO NOT TASTE the cheese first!! If you taste it, the sauce will taste flat. If you don't taste, your sauce will taste excellent. It's like a fairy tale.

BRILLIANT. Through trial and error, I've discovered my inclinations to eat the cheese are FALSE and this is the prudent and virtuous path. Never again shall I sample the cheese beforehand.

In fact, last week, when I was so hungry I could faint, and I thoughtlessly called Soho at 10:30 pm getting her out of bed to start boiling me water so it would be ready for my pasta when I got off the stupid slow bus, I successfully managed to NOT eat the cheese. It was tough and required tremendous will power. But I held strong for the ten minutes it took to boil the pasta and make the sauce. And then, bliss.

(By the way, I am sorry about that Soho. I am a bad roommate. And you can consider this entire post a big fat cheesy apology and thank-you-for-being-awesome-and-coming-from-and-awesome-family-that-makes-awesome-mac+cheese-and-shares-it-with-the-world-and-bears-with-me-when-I'm-hungry-and-cranky-and-unreasonable-and-totally-un-awesome.)

Anyway, I think I'll be having mac + cheese every Friday this Lent. Thanks Mrs. Lawler!

(Photo from Like Mother, Like Daughter.)


  1. Yummy! I might just have to try this. Hopefully the lowbrows I cook for will like it! ;)

  2. PS. Crazy Mama is Heidi Badley. ;)

  3. Hi Crazy Mama! Thanks for commenting! :)

  4. No way, Maggie! I love Leila's blog! It is such a small world (especially as relates to the Catholic blogosphere, me thinks).

  5. Ok, I was not in bed when you called, I was just reading in my room! Putting on a pot of water before getting into bed was not a problem.

  6. Hi Maggie! Thanks for the links and the awesome review! Since, as you say, they are not really recipes, it follows that I have no idea if what you're making is what I had in mind...so I'm SO relieved that the mac and cheese came out well! Phew! (note to self, hire test kitchen)

    Also, I will say that we have good sharp already grated cheese, thanks to living near Vermont and wonderful Cabot cheese. So I approve your substitutions...you can't help yourself ;)

    Your blog is very pretty and packed with fun stuff. I love it.

  7. Boy, Mrs. Lawler, I know Suki and I would both be so happy if we could find REALLY good sharp cheddar down here. Even the cabot seems a little less tangy. But, we make do. :) Thanks for commenting!