Macaroni and Cheese

Our wedding was a blast. Yes, I am biased, but I truly believe that overall, everyone had a blast. I clearly did, as evidenced in this photo:
And this photo:
In my mind, there are 3 essential elements for a successful wedding. Plenty of booze, good dancing music, and delicious food. As this is a cooking blog and not a drinking or dancing blog (although maybe it should be), I would like to focus on the food aspect of our wedding.

People are still talking about the dinner that was served at our wedding - I have received so many compliments not only on the deliciousness of it, but the choices.  The food really was amazing, Chef Danny at our Country Club is one ridiculous cook. But the choices were really the key - they were fun, different, and everybody found something they loved. Our approach was to do all of 'our favorite things'....well, not ALL of our favorite things, as we clearly did not have room for 97 different options - but some of our favorite things. We wanted to combine a little bit of Texas, since we live here now, and a little bit of Wisconsin - since the wedding was there and I'm from the lovely state. The menu consisted of BBQ brisket sliders, roasted pork tenderloin, grilled corn on the cob, a giant cheese display (yeah Wisconsin!), Southwest caesar salad, shrimp cocktail (I'm not sure where that fit in, but I really wanted it), and last but not least: gourmet macaroni and cheese. Yes, tons of food. While most people bring a second pair of shoes for post-dinner dancing, I actually had to bring a second dress - in a bigger size.  Just kidding. But it would have been nice to have.

Ok, now to the point of this blog. The mac 'n cheese was a total hit. I decided I wanted to make it on my own, so I started doing some research. It turns out there are 11,674 macaroni and cheese recipes out there. I combined a number of the recipes, and I am convinced this has to be the best one. It was divine.

Recipe

The cheese sauce in here does magical things to people. It made my husband help me clean the kitchen after dinner. It made me want to skip dessert. It turned my mom into the best dancer at our wedding. It could probably even help Obama figure out how to fix the economy, if only he would try it.

Start by cooking the pasta. You'll want it very 'al dente' - it bakes in the oven for quite a while and you don't want it to get mushy. I checked the pasta after about 6 minutes of boiling, and I think I left it in for another minute or so. You want it slightly underdone.

Preheat the oven to 350.

Make the roux. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Don't burn it! Sprinkle in the flour and whisk together. Continue whisking for about 5 minutes.
Next, add the milk. Don't be a wimp here - use whole milk. Skim is for sissies. Whole milk really adds to the creaminess of the cheese sauce. Whisk together, then add 2 heaping teaspoons of ground mustard. Continue whisking for about 5 minutes, until the mixture gets very thick and gravy-like.
Reduce the heat to low. Next, you need to 'temper' the egg. Basically you need to introduce some of the gravy mixture into the beaten egg first, to avoid cooking it when you add it to the pot.

Using a 1/4 cup, retrieve a little of the gravy mixture from the pot. Add it to the beaten egg, and whisk constantly to avoid cooking it. Keep whisking until the mixture is cooled. 
Then, pour slowly into the large pot, whisking constantly. 

This is when it starts to get really good. Time to add the cheese! Add all but 1/2 cup. I forgot to do this, I can't be trusted when in the presence of excessive amounts of cheese.
 Oh my god.
Stir until totally melted, then turn off the heat.
YUM. Don't lose focus yet, you need to keep going. You can do it. Now is the time to add extra spices if you desire. I added paprika, and it was a very good decision. Also add the salt and pepper here.
Pour in the drained, undercooked pasta and stir until combined. Transfer the mac 'n cheese to your desired baking dish, and top with remaining cheese. Since I used all of my cheese, I used string cheese! The mozzarella addition was amazing - highly recommend it. It looks sort of stupid though.
Finally, prepare the bread crumbs. I think I used about 3/4 cup bread crumbs, and mixed with about 2-3 tablespoons melted butter. Spread over the macaroni and cheese. Almost there!
Bake for 25 minutes! So close!
DONE! There are no words. Make this if you want to be voted Person of the Year. Or, if you want to have a really fun wedding.

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