Thursday, August 28, 2008

So, today I bought a freezer.  (Thanks to Megan for helping me pick it up!  Freezers don't fit so well in Civics).  In honor of my intense freezer-love, I am posting my absolute favorite freezer recipe ever.  (It's from the Cook's Illustrated The Best Make-Ahead Recipe).

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

1 recipe Toasted Bread Crumb Topping
1 pound elbow macaroni
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium garlic clove, minced or pressed through a garlic press 
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
6 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 1/2 cups whole milk
1 pound colby cheese, shredded (about 4 cups)
8 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
Ground black pepper

1.  Make the topping and set aside.  Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil in a Dutch oven over high heat.  Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and the macaroni and cook, stirring occasionally, until just beginning to soften, about 5 minutes.  Drain the pasta and leave it in the colander; set aside.
2.  Wipe the pot dry, add the butter, and set over medium heat until melted.  Stir in the garlic, mustard and cayenne and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until golden, about 1 minute.  Slowly whisk in the chicken broth and milk.  Bring to a simmer and cook, whisking often, until large bubbles form on the surface and the mixture is slightly thickened, about 15 minutes.  Off the heat, gradually whisk in the colby and cheddar until completely melted.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Stir the drained pasta into the cheese sauce, breaking up any clumps, until well combined.  Pour into a 13 by 9-inch baking dish and sprinkle with the crumb topping.  
4.  TO STORE: Wrap the dish tightly with plastic wrap and then foil and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze for up to 1 month.  (If frozen, the casserole must be thawed completely in the refrigerator, about 24 hours.)
5.  TO SERVE:  Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Unwrap the dish and cover tightly with aluminum foil.  Bake until the filling is hot throughout, 40 to 45 minutes.  Remove the foil and continue to bake until the crumbs are crisp, 15 to 20 minutes longer.  
6.  TO SERVE RIGHT AWAY  Bake the casserole in a 400 degree oven, uncovered, until the sauce is bubbling and the crumbs are crisp, 25 to 35 minutes.

I like to split it into 2 8x8 pans and freeze it that way (since there's only two of us).  Also, if you let it cool on the counter for two hours and then wrap it up, you get less condensation on the plastic wrap.

I LOVE freezer meals, since I don't always feel very motivated to cook.  There's nothing better than having something already made that I don't have to think very hard about.  All I have to remember to do is put it in the fridge the night before.  Also, I freeze this (and other meals) in small ziploc containers for individual sized dinners and lunches that I can microwave.  They aren't quite as good, but it's better than cold cereal.

 This is my freezer container of choice because it's cheap and I can keep TONS of them on hand (like 9 or 10).  I haven't been able to find them here in Oregon (I haven't looked very hard though), so my mom sends them to me from North Carolina.

I also like to use the Glad Press-n-Seal to wrap them up, because it sticks REALLY well and makes a nice seal for the freezer.

1 comment:

Megan said...

Bring that book to work this weekend if you think of it, k? (since I have a freezer now too!)