I loves me a good Mac n Cheese dish. It may be my all-time favourite comfort food and while I’ve made a few good ones in my life, this is hands down the best ever. It’s not fancy or difficult. Every ingredient will probably be in your pantry. No fancy cheeses, nothing out of the ordinary (although I do love mac n cheese with some “grown up” cheese too).
I wasn’t even planning on posting this because I had a few other recipes/photos in the pipe but after eating it, I had to. I also wanted to add a quick tip on White Balance when you’re shooting under difficult artificial kitchen light at night.
I decided to make this because I had some leftover uncooked ham in the fridge and after a gorgeous, but cold, afternoon at the beach with my friend, her baby daughter and our dogs, it was perfect food to warm up with.
Most of the beaches here are closed to dogs between April and October so this was Sam’s first chance in his young life to experience sand and salt water. He loved it! He’s a little clam digger! He uncovered a couple of them in his efforts to escape to Japan via digging giant holes along with his doggie pal Charlie, a Cairn Terrier the same age as him. Sam’s a pretty bouncy lab puppy but I don’t think even he is a match for Charlie’s terrier exuberance so after an afternoon together, he’s usually wiped out. Add in digging the holes and wrestling together in the sand – well I had a pretty worn out pup last night, who didn’t even notice I was cooking with cheese – his favourite human treat!
This little story is purely an excuse to work in a picture of my handsome fellow:
Right, so Sam is asleep, time to cook but, first things first:
- if calories are something you are concerned about, you might want to shift in reverse and back up as far away as you can. Diet friendly it ain’t!
- This is adapted from Betty Crocker’s New Cookbook. Betty Crocker seems to get a bad rap a lot of places I look but this and the Joy of Cooking are my two biggest resources for cooking from scratch. The recipes are solid, they don’t rely on prepackaged mixes, dressings etc. You literally are cooking from scratch. They’re a great base to start from if you’ve never made a recipe before.
- The key to this recipe is the ham and cooking it first and then cooking the sauce in the same pan. Adds a wonderful extra dimension of flavour to the cheddar sauce.
Macaroni and Cheese with Ham
*adapted from Betty Crocker’s New Cookbook
3 cups uncooked macaroni
1 tsp olive oil
2 cups uncooked ham, cubed
1/2 cup or one stick of butter or margarine
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp plus a dash more of dry mustard
1/2 tsp plus a dash more of Worcestershire sauce
3 cups milk
1 1/2 cups cubed cheddar cheese, the sharper the better
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
Heat oven to 350F and dig out a large casserole dish. Leave ungreased.
Cook macaroni according to package directions
While macaroni is cooking, heat olive oil in a dutch oven or the largest saucepan you have. When oil is hot, add cubed ham and stir quickly for 3 or 4 minutes. Remove ham but leave some of the drippings in the pan (if it looks like too much grease, remove some)
Lower heat and melt butter in the same pan as the ham cooked in. Combine with drippings.
Add flour, salt, pepper, mustard and worcestershire to the melted butter and cook over low heat stirring constantly until mixture is smooth and bubbly. Add the ham back in and stir until ham is coated with the flour/butter mixture.
Slowly add milk in small increments, stirring constantly until fully combined with flour/ham mixture. Bring the whole mixture to a boil stirring constantly. Allow to boil for one minute until sauce starts to thicken.
Stir in cubed cheese slowly and let it melt into the sauce over low heat.
Drain macaroni and gently stir it into the cheese and ham sauce. Pour the entire mixture into the casserole dish, sprinkle with grated cheddar and Parmesan and bake for 20-25 minutes until bubbly and cheese topping is starting to brown.
All I can say is, I have lots of leftovers and I can’t wait for lunch!
Photo 1: 50mm, f2.8, 1/20th, ISO400, +1/3 exposure compensation.
This was a very quick snap, one that I wasn’t planning on taking. I actually took it after dinner with some of the leftovers! But, I did want to offer up one quick tip. If you’re shooting under artificial kitchen light and you want to lose some of the orange glow it can give food, try turning your White Balance to Tungsten. Under a lot of lighting conditions, Tungsten can add a really funky blue cast to a photo that can be fun. In a situation where you’re battling orange light, that blue can help counteract it. I’ll try to do a post just on White Balance showing the difference soon.
Photo 2: 70mm, f4.5, 1/1600, ISO100, -1/3 exposure compensation.
This was taken with my 70-300mm lens which is my standard lens when I’m at the beach – great for shots of bald eagles and herons this time of year. I know it’s not food but I thought I’d mention it because of the red leash and the texture of the sand. The red adds a pop to the photo that makes it a little more than an ordinary snap of a dog digging.