I’ve always wondered how professional chefs make their mac and cheese. Do they follow the traditional oven-baked recipe—you know the kind made with a cream of chicken soup base and topped with cracker crumblings? Do they just grab a box of Kraft from the cupboard? No, they must have a secret recipe for something rich and creamy; gourmet in the true sense. But how do they do it?
I resolved to find out. My inspiration was a local restaurant that makes a delicious white version containing four cheeses. After you place your order, you can sneak a peek into the kitchen as the chef throws sauce and cheeses into a pan, simmers it for several minutes, and then tosses in the macaroni. I knew these steps were integral to my success.
For the next several months, I made dish after dish. I tried versions with heavy cream and half-and-half, but the best results came from a flour and butter roux base, which gives the dish its thickness. I also discovered that soft cheese was very important for creaminess because it melts well. Here is my version of a restaurant-style macaroni and cheese. It may not be gourmet, but it beats the box kind any day.
* You can substitute potato flour with wheat flour, if desired. I find the potato flour gives the sauce a slightly more natural taste.
** You can substitute Colby/Jack with another cheese, although I have had best results with softer cheeses because they melt well. Beware of Cheddar! Although it has a nice flavor, it ends up making the sauce clumped, oily and chalky in texture.