I finally got around to making the Skillet Macaroni and Cheese I had talked about the other day. Because it was rainy and cool for July, and I was tired, and following the news this afternoon made me sad and distressed (and my thoughts and prayers are with the families of the people on Malaysian Air flight 17.)
I pretty much followed the recipe as written, just used much less salt. (I put a little in the cooking liquid for the macaroni; macaroni aren't much good totally salt-free.)
I was skeptical the macaroni would cook up right; I was always raised to cook pasta in a very large amount of water at a rolling boil, and this is a much smaller amount of water mixed with canned milk that you just barely boil.
I should have known: I've never made an America's Test Kitchen recipe that wasn't good. This one is no exception. The macaroni and cheese is lovely and creamy and cheesy. It's not much harder to make than the box kind from the grocery store but is WAY better (and you can use whatever ingredients you want - you could sub other cheeses as long as they'd melt. And I think it would also be good with either chopped fresh tomatoes or well-drained canned tomatoes added to it. Or bacon. Or cooked and drained ground beef.)
There are different kinds of mac and cheese. When I was a kid, my mom most often made the baked kind: you boil up the macaroni, then combine it, a sort of custard base with eggs and milk, and the cheese, in a casserole dish and bake it. (My mom also used to add a little bit of onion, and I think the next time I make the skillet mac and cheese, I'll saute a little bit of onion before adding the liquid to the pan; I think a little onion would add good flavor). I've only rarely made that kind because it takes longer and is more involved.
Then there's the stovetop kind, which, if you're doing the box mixes is super simple (back when I was not worrying about sodium, I used to buy the Annie's white cheddar kind, and it really wasn't bad, for a nearly-instant meal). Or you can make a white sauce and add cheese and then mix in the macaroni. This recipe works on that principle but to save on dirtying pans, you start by heating the liquid (including canned milk, which is a nice touch: skim milk, which is what I usually have on hand would be too lean, fattier milk would curdle, something like half-and-half would be too rich) and then cooking the macaroni in it. THEN you thicken the sauce, not with a roux, but with cornstarch (and the cheese thickens it some, too).
The hot sauce called for is fairly important to the flavor. I used Cholula brand chipotle sauce, which is my favorite hot sauce. (An earlier iteration of the recipe - the one in my Cook's Country cookbook - calls for less hot sauce but also some dry mustard, which would be good too. Or dry mustard and paprika and maybe a little cayenne.)
It does make a really large amount, it looked like maybe 8-10 servings to me (but I tend to eat smaller servings of stuff than the usual recommended serving, it seems). I hope it heats up well. In the future, I may see if I can reasonably cut the recipe down to 1/2 or so of the amount. (I suppose the stuff might freeze....)