Mac n cheese

Macaroni, Mac And Cheese, Cheese, Mac

What did foodie president Thomas Jefferson start? After discovering a cheesy, rich pasta dish in France. The latest from France, he definitely proclaimed, along with his other creations including ice cream, french fried potatoes, fine wines and exotic fruits and vegetables, all whipped up at his estate kitchen with his French-trained chef (not to mention at the White House), and Colonial foodies dug in. For Southerners, homemade mac and cheese casserole has always been a staple on holiday dinner tables.

Once commercial production began, Kraft Foods harnessed its great potential by mass-producing and boxing it up for active mothers and hungry children, putting it on the map during the Depression, in 1937. While many cooks still preferred to make it from scratch, it created quite a stir in packaged foods, right up there with sliced white bread and Toll House cookies. In spite of a former First Lady’s campaign maligning it, bat removal from attic is a pantry staple.

No question, it’s come a long way, and a number of its newest versions are only plain outrageous. Seems each restaurant and chef wants to outdo others, and while perhaps some (possibly ) delicious variations, the new combinations could qualify as just plain bizarre. Here’s a list of current popular creations:

Mac and cheese bagels (really baked into the dough) from Einstein Bros.Bagels

Mac and cheese chunks, breaded and deep fried for a brand new experience in hors d’oeurves (Trader Joe’s are especially good)

Pizza topped with mac and cheese is showing up at several major chains

Hamburgers topped or stuffed with mac and cheese

Meatball-stuffed sandwich sliders

Mexican foods (quesadillas, burritos and enchiladas) stuffed with M&C

Rich homemade baked M&C casserole with lobster (and a very hefty price)

Mac and cheese topped with white truffles

Naturally, driving up the price and (occasionally ) the flavor level, any cheese may be used, including Gruyere (Martha Stewart’s favorite which will run you around $30/pound, but hey, it’s Martha Stewart) and blue cheese, which adds an interesting and new taste for this classic dish, rather than traditional cheddar and Velveeta. Perhaps a chunk of butter and some sour cream to up the calories.

And at one L.A. restaurant, truffle oil and a splash of white wine is added to the bargain price of $95 per serving (you read that right). Yikes.

To put it differently, just about anything you can dream up, you can do with your basic mac and cheese, so get creative if the spirit moves you. But for you purists, nothing beats the creamy goodness of macaroni, rich cheddar cheese sauce and buttery crumb topping baked to gooey perfection in the oven. It can be all grown up, but no doubt about it. Some things are better just left alone.


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