Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Stuff of Legends: Edisto Mac

Well, local legends, at least. Local legends among the 40 or so people who have tasted it. Just trust me, my macaroni and cheese will make you want to slap your grandmother. And she'll thank you.

I finally perfected the stuff two years ago while vacationing at Edisto Beach with friends, which is why I've taken to calling it Edisto Mac. And feel special, dear reader(s), for I have not shared the full recipe with anyone but my Pug until now. Not even my husband is allowed in the circle of cheese trust. In fact, we got in an argument this time because he wanted to help and I didn't want him to because then he might steal my secrets and I'm just going to throw down my whisk and cry if you don't stop trying to steal my recipes.... but you don't need all that. You just need the recipe. OK. Deep breath. The magician unveils the prestige....

NOTE: This is not some speedy, whip it up in 30 minutes thing. It's slow. And that's why it's good. If you're looking for a quick dinner, see the next post - "Quicky Chicky Casserole". That is not a joke, by the way.

Edisto Mac   8-10 servings

Here's the ingredient roundup:
1 16-ounce package elbow macaroni
5 Tablespoons unsalted butter
5 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon each good Dijon mustard and Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce (I prefer Texas Pete)
12 ounces freshly grated sharp cheddar
     Plus 4 more ounces grated sharp cheddar for the top
1 8-ounce container sour cream (I prefer daisy brand)
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

And here's what you do with them:
Preheat the oven to 375
Cook 1 16-ounce package of elbow macaroni in plenty of boiling, salted water for about 8 minutes. it should be pretty al dente at this point. It will be perfect by the time you're all done. Drain it in a colander set in the sink and leave it there while you cook the sauce.

Look at that lighting...pretty, pretty pasta.
My theory on leaving it there is twofold- a) it will continue to absorb water and "cook" more; b) all that excess water will be GONE by the time you add the pasta to the sauce, thereby not watering down the sauce and giving you a curdy mess.

Wipe the pasta pot dry, place it over medium-high heat, and toss in 5 Tablespoons of butter. Not, I repeat NOT margarine. Margarine is one molecule away from being plastic and I do not use it. EVER! When the butter is melted, whisk in 5 Tablespoons of all-purpose flour. Whisk constantly and quickly. You are creating a roux- you want it a nice blond color and nice and smooth. Then slowly add this, still whisking constantly:

Nectar of the gods, from happy cows
4 cups of milk. Yes, it must be whole milk. I suppose it doesn't have to be organic, but I promise you it tastes different, so use it if you can. Here's a picture of the roux, by the way...

Yes the spoon is blurry. It's an action shot.
Keep whisking friends, until the sauce is barely simmering and thickened. Id' say thicker than heavy cream. It should coat the back of a spoon. At this point you will add the secret ingredients. They are secret because if you tell people that's what you put in there they will look at you like you're insane. Trust me, OK?

The mac and cheese secret flavor trifecta
Yep, 1 teaspoon each of the Dijon mustard and Worcestershire, and 1/2 teaspoon of the Texas Pete. You cant taste them so much in the finished product, but they add a certain something and enhance the cheesiness factor. It's what makes mine different. And use these brands if you can. Consistency is key in copycatting recreating a dish.

Now you can take the pot off the heat and whisk in the 12 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese till it's completely melted. I ALWAYS use an 8 ounce block of Kraft Wisconsin sharp, and half an 8 ounce block of extra sharp. This time I used Cabot brand extra sharp white cheddar, and will do that from now on. It was SO GOOD... (The other half of the block gets sprinkled on top, BTW.) After the cheese is mixed in, stir in the sour cream.

Once all is well blended taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. You must taste, otherwise you will not know what it needs, right? So many people don't taste what they're cooking while they are cooking it...big mistake. Fold in the well drained pasta and taste again.

Now, I always make my mac in cheese in my Le Cruset dutch oven, which can go straight from stove to oven so this is where I would sprinkle the top with the remaining 4 ounces of shredded cheese and toss the whole thing in there, uncovered, for 30 to 40 minutes. If you are not blessed enough to own something you can take from stove-top to oven, pour it into a lightly buttered, deep casserole dish. Make sure it's a nice deep dish, because that's what will make the difference between a dry mac and a creamy mac. Then of course top with cheese and bake. On this occasion, I was taking it to a BBQ where I wanted to keep it warm. SO....
It ended up in the ceramic insert from my crock-pot, which is of course oven safe. I baked it as usual, then when we got to our friend's house I just plugged it in, put the lid on and set it to warm (I do this on holidays too. It will hold in the crock-pot surprisingly well).

Sadly I don't have a picture of the finished product, but trust that it was golden and bubbly and delicious.

I hope you appreciate and enjoy this recipe. As I hit the publish button, know that my hands are shaking from sharing the full recipe with the whole world. Or at least my Mom and my friend Kristi, whom I know will read it.


  1. Krystal EschenbacherSeptember 29, 2010 at 3:04 PM

    I read it! (and shall try it)

  2. as did i, and i hope to taste your version- after all- mac and cheese is my favrotie dessert....Thanks for sharing it. you know I lovve to read abou cooking just not do it...and I love your flavor of writing...


  3. We are on our second time cooking it (though we decided to pass on the hot sauce). We are doubling the recipe for a family dinner party tomorrow night. :) Thanks!