“The Cheese-Maker’s Mac and Cheese” from “Half Baked Harvest”

What I should have done, I realise now, was to take an action shot of this mac and cheese. In the cookbook, the spoon hovers just over the dish, with pasta heaped on top and loads of cheese cascading down. My picture above does not show any of this, and I apologise. But believe me when I tell you that this dish, like many others in this cookbook, contains oodles (I’m sure that’s the technical term) of cheese.

As regular readers of this blog know, our family already has a Desert Island Mac and Cheese, this one from the New York Times. I’ve been making it since it was first published in January 2006, which tells you all you need to know about its staying power.

So was this version better? No, though I’m beginning to think that no version is going to be an improvement on the one we love so much. But was this version at least as good? Again, no.The inclusion of crushed Ritz crackers on the top was an intriguing addition, but it wasn’t enough for us to fall in love with it. It tasted good, it was quicker to make and it wasn’t a disaster, but I couldn’t in good conscience say that it was as good as our beloved favourite.

The oodles of cheese were good, though.

If you’d like to make this yourself, click through this sentence to find it on the Half Baked Harvest blog.

 

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“The Cheese-Maker’s Mac and Cheese” from “Half Baked Harvest”

“Crab & Sriracha Mac ‘n’ Cheese” from “Comfort”

It’s always a dangerous thing in this family to try to find a better mac ‘n’ cheese than the one we already know and fiercely love. I’ve written about this before, and you would think I would have learned my lesson by now, but I guess I like to live life on the edge.

Thus, this new mac ‘n’ cheese with crab and sriracha.

I’m not going to bury the lede. We didn’t like this more than our Desert Island Mac ‘n’ Cheese from the New York Times. But it was a nice change from the usual.

Though I need to add a few caveats. First, Andrew (18) didn’t like the first few bites but ended up eating the lot. “I didn’t like it at first, but I guess I do now,” he said, which is hardly a ringing endorsement, but at least he had something to eat.

Another caveat: rather than taking out a second mortgage to buy all the fresh crab necessary for this (300 g, which would run us about £15 if it was all fresh), I used a mixture of fresh and canned. Given that the dish is smothered in sauce and cheese, I didn’t think we would notice the difference. We didn’t.

Would I make this again? Probably not. Don’t get me wrong, it was good. It just wasn’t better than our usual, so we’ll stick with that.

“Crab & Sriracha Mac ‘n’ Cheese” from “Comfort”

“Creamy Macaroni and Cheese” from “Dinner in an Instant”

Sometimes, you really ought to follow your instincts.

In this case, when I first saw this recipe, I thought, “Why in the world would you want to make macaroni and cheese in a pressure cooker.” Quickly followed by the second thought, “How does it work? I’m so intrigued I want to try it.”

Melissa Clark even says in the introduction, “Why make macaroni and cheese in an electric pressure cooker when it’s so easy to do on the stove? You’re not necessarily going to save any time with this method, but cooking it all in one pot does make things more convenient.”

Having now made this recipe, I respectfully disagree. This was a disaster.

We definitely are experts when it comes to judging macaroni and cheese in this house. By my count, we’ve tried at least six via this blog. Our favourite, perhaps even a Desert Island Dish, would be this version from the New York Times. Delivers every time. For when we have less time, I’ve also made this version from Melissa Clark’s previous cookbook, “Dinner.” It’s also a winner. (It’s also very quick. It only takes about 15 minutes to make.)

Honestly, I should have just stopped considering it when my initial thought was that you couldn’t really cook macaroni and cheese in a pressure cooker. I mean, technically, you CAN, because we did end up with a dinner of macaroni and cheese. But I won’t bother to do it this way again.

The reason, quite simply, is that clean up requires a monumental effort. Not surprisingly, no matter how much butter you put on the bottom of the pot, it’s still going to burn when it’s cooking on a high heat for six minutes. Once the macaroni and cheese was taken out, we found a pot that was completely black at the bottom, which required a huge multi-day cleanup effort. It’s funny how the picture above does not accurately reflect the level of burning that went on, but trust me, it was significant. At least there was enough non-burnt macaroni and cheese to feed everyone.

The burning had a secondary effect as well: the macaroni and cheese ended up with a distinct smoky taste. Smokiness can be excellent in a variety of dishes, but not in macaroni and cheese, which should deliver the creamy goodness we know and love.

Would I make this again? I think you all already know the answer to this question.

Macaroni and cheese in a pressure cooker? Just don’t do it.

“Creamy Macaroni and Cheese” from “Dinner in an Instant”

“Macaroni and Cauliflower Bake with Three Cheeses” from “Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course”

Maureen: I’ve got three words: Full of yum.

Andrew (13): I think it’s really good. Me gusta!

Nicholas (9): I think it’s really good. I tasted it a number of times now and it has the same consistency throughout.

Tim: It’s nice, but I wonder about the incremental gains from the one we usually have.

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Maureen: It depends which one you’re talking about. Is it the Jamie Oliver 30-minute-meals one, or the New York Times one that uses a pound of cheddar cheese?

Tim: The New York Times one, then.

Maureen: I think this one is better. Obviously, since it doesn’t have a pound of cheese in it, it’s better for us AND our arteries. I think this one is even better than the Jamie Oliver one, to which it’s pretty similar, because it has the combination of cheese, which makes it more interesting.

Nicholas: I think this may be my new favourite mac and cheese.

Andrew: I think I like the one we usually have better.

Maureen: I think I like this one better. It has cauliflower in it and the addition of more vegetables is always a good thing. I will probably be making this again.

“Macaroni and Cauliflower Bake with Three Cheeses” from “Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course”

“Macaroni and Cheese” from “The River Cottage Family Cookbook”

Tim: What do you think boys?

Andrew (12) and Nicholas (8): Good!

Maureen: Nicholas, I didn’t put bacon on yours since you told me earlier today that you were “born hating bacon.” Would you have liked some anyway?

Nicholas: No. It’s perfect the way it is, without the bacon.

Maureen: Do you like this more, less or the same as our favourite macaroni and cheese? When I say “our favourite” I mean the New York Times recipe, not the Jamie Oliver 30 Minute Cauliflower Macaroni.

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“Macaroni and Cheese” from “The River Cottage Family Cookbook”