I always offer a bit of advice for the uninitiated at my mother’s dinner table.
If you’re really hungry and want a lot more, tell her you want a little more. If you only want a little more, tell her you don’t want any more. And if you really don’t want any more, you have to get up and flee the house — and she’ll likely meet you on the porch with a huge plate of food, “for a snack when you get home.”
My mom is an Italian girl from Jersey. She makes two dozen rolls for six people and 10 pounds of potato salad for four. Growing up there wasn’t only enough food for an extra place at the table, there was enough for the entire cast of Ocean’s 11, 12, 13, and most of 14.
Growing up watching this messed me up.
When Petey and I were married, I had not the slightest clue on how to cook for two (to be honest, I didn’t have much of a clue about cooking at all). I couldn’t figure out why we always had so many furry leftovers crowding our fridge. Who knew four pounds of meatloaf and six or seven pork chops was a tad excessive for two diners?
The other night was my Dad’s birthday. We went up to Greensboro to celebrate with him.
I brought up his favorite treat of mine, pecan shortbread with toasted white chocolate glaze (recipe to come). The Kid and I were making our secret chicken tenders (recipe also to come). There were seven of us at dinner.
Mom made the side that everybody loves; her baked mac and cheese. It’s on the table every holiday. When I was a kid and she made it, you could find me in the kitchen in the middle of the night, eating it cold, straight out of the fridge.
There were seven of us at Dad’s birthday dinner.
She tripled the recipe.
Thanks for your time.
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Mom’s Baked Macaroni and Cheese
1 pound large ridged elbow macaroni
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
Dash of pepper
2 cups whole milk
4 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
2 cups Velveeta “cheese,” cut into small cubes
1 teaspoon salt
Boil pasta for five minutes in very salty water and drain. The pasta should be about half-cooked so it adsorbs cheesy flavor and it doesn’t get mushy while baking. Drain and pour into buttered, 9 x 13 oven-safe dish.
In large heavy pot, melt butter and whisk in flour. Cook for three minutes to cook out the raw taste of the flour.
Pour in milk and cook until it just comes to a very low boil. Season with salt and pepper. A little bit at a time, stir in 2 cups cheddar and 2 cups Velveeta, about ½ cup at a time. When one addition of cheese has melted, stir in the next addition. When all the cheese has been added, check for seasoning, reseason if necessary, and remove from heat.
Add the cheese sauce to the macaroni, holding back a little, so that you can adjust if needed. The mixture should be pretty loose before baking because the sauce will be absorbed by the pasta, and some of the liquid will cook out while baking.
Preheat oven to 350°. Sprinkle the remaining 2 cups of cheddar on top and place into oven. Bake for 45-60 minutes or until the cheese on top is melted, it’s bubbly, and the internal temperature is 165°.
Let sit, lightly covered for 10-15 minutes before service. Serves 8-10. It can be doubled, but you’ll need to increase baking time by 10-15 minutes.
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