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Home-made Mac and Cheese

Jan 04, 2006
Recipe Type:

Among the emblems for the convenience food approach to home cooking, the slender box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese holds a special place. Chances are that you'll find a package lurking somewhere in most American families' cupboards, especially those with little children. Is this such a bad thing?Reasonable people can disagree on that question. On one hand, one could argue that macaroni and cheese from a box is relatively healthy compared with a lot of things kids eat these days and requires a bit more care and preparation than, say, opening and heating a can of ravioli.In the ideal world that KGI envisages and is working to create, though, more people would have both the time and the skills to prepare simple dishes like macaroni and cheese from scratch. They would do it because it tastes better. What would you rather eat, a version made with tangy hand-grated cheddar cheese (ideally from a local farm) or one made from powdered cheese "product" coming a mystery farm and factory? There's no comparison.But, beyond taste, there are larger issues such as the importance that society accords to food and who controls the food supply. When we expect our meal to be come together miraculously within 15 minutes each night, we are saying that food and, ultimately, our health are not worth our time and effort.Similarly, the decision to open a box of pre-mixed, processed food that we are capable of making ourselves is a decision to outsource our cooking and health to large multinational food companies (Kraft, for example, is part of Altria, the global food, candy, and cigarette company, yes the same one that makes Marlboro cigarattes) rather than taking responsibility ourselves. In doing so, we delegate those same companies to make a number of important decisions on our behalf such as "what ingredients will be used?", "where will those ingredients come from?", "what methods will be used for producing and processing the ingredients?", and "how will those who produce the ingredients - humans and animals alike - be treated and compensated for their work?"In the spirit of promoting greater levels of food self-reliance, we would like to encourage you to see macaroni and cheese not merely as a quick and dirty dinner, but as opportunity for culinary artistic expression.

Ingredients

3 tablespoons butter12 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated12 ounces American cheese or cheddar cheese, coarsely grated1 pound elbow pasta, boiled in salted water until just tender, drained, and rinsed under cold water1/8 teaspoon cayenne (optional) Salt2/3 cup whole milk

Preparation

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Use one tablespoon butter to thickly grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Combine grated cheeses and set aside two heaping cups for topping.2. In a large bowl, toss together the pasta, cheeses, cayenne (if using) and salt to taste. Place in prepared pan and evenly pour milk over surface. Sprinkle reserved cheese on top, dot with remaining butter and bake, uncovered, 45 minutes. Raise heat to 400 degrees and bake 15 to 20 minutes more, until crusty on top and bottom.

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