August 29, 2010

International Bento (North America): Macaroni & Cheese

Moving right along in the world of bento, I decided to do one that was close to home. My home, that is. That means that the macaroni and cheese is home made.

I have two different mac and cheese recipes that I use. One is deluxe and decadent, involving eggs and multiple cheeses, and the other is somewhat leaner and absolutely quick as the boxed kind. The second one is a little more suitable for everyday (but maybe not every day) consumption. You can make it with whatever cheese you like, but I prefer sharp cheddar. This one was made with white sharp cheddar, which is not as picturesque, hence the smoked paprika decorative topping.

The rest of the bento is simple: some sliced zucchini and red bell peppers, and a few Rainier cherries for dessert. I removed the pasta to a ceramic plate to re-heat, since my bento is not microwave friendly.

Skillet Macaroni & Cheese
aka "Evapomac"

Serves 2
Total Time Prep & Cook: 20 minutes

1½ cups uncooked macaroni
¾ cup* canned evaporated milk**
2 cups water
1 tablespoon butter
½ teaspoon kosher salt (or ¼ teaspoon table salt)
½ teaspoon cornstarch
1 – 2 shakes of Tabasco sauce
1 ½ cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese
¾ cup grated Colby cheese (or Monterey Jack...or more Cheddar)

Bring the water and ½ cup of the milk to a boil in a large skillet or medium saucepan. Add the salt, butter, and the macaroni, and cook (stirring frequently) until the macaroni is tender and the liquid is reduced to a thin “sauce”.

Put the remaining ¼ cup of milk in a small bowl with the Tabasco and the cornstarch. Stir until smooth. Add to the cooked macaroni and stir until the sauce begins to thicken – no more than a minute or two over high heat. Turn off the heat and add the cheese, one handful at a time, stirring it in each time, and adding a little room-temperature water if necessary to adjust the consistency of the sauce as you go.

You can top it with some buttered, toasted breadcrumbs or parsley or something like that if you feel the need to be fancy, but really this is designed to be dumped into bowls and eaten in front of the television. Have a salad tomorrow.

Serves 2 people generously, or 4 people as a side dish.

*This is about ½ a 370 ml can. You can also use an entire 160 ml can, but add 2 tablespoons of milk or half-and-half with the cornstarch, to make up the difference

** don’t use sweetened condensed milk by mistake. Ew!

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