For a food as universal as macaroni and cheese, I've found that there is one main thing that all mac' 'n' cheese recipes have in common: nobody agrees on what good macaroni and cheese tastes like. Some people like it creamy, some like it thick and cakey, others love the stovetop variety. So, in my search to find a really great macaroni and cheese recipe, I decided that I would just have to experiment until I found one that worked for me.
My first test experiment taught me several things. I learned that sour cream (if used in your recipe) must be mixed into the noodles first, because if you pour it on top with the other wet ingredients, it will leave little white clumps that are visible after baking. The clumps don't taste bad, but they don't exactly inspire confidence in the taste-testers. I also learned that I should use more cheese than I think I'll need in my layers...later on it never seems like enough (of course, I love cheese, so my opinion may be a little skewed).
My favorite type of macaroni and cheese is the thick, cakey, baked version. My granny used to make it for us when we were little. There was nothing like sitting down to a table of fresh, from-scratch fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, biscuits and mashed potatoes. And naturally, like most people, I've found that I suddenly miss all those foods from my youth.
I used a combined recipe from two different sources. I decided that I would not make a cheese sauce, or roux, because I didn't think that was how Granny would have made it. In fact, I don't think any of us knew what a roux was back then. The taste of the finished dish was very good. I expect that by tomorrow, it will be an even better texture and I will really like it. With a few minor changes, I expect this recipe will be GOLD, baby!
Macaroni and Cheese ("Chef at Home" style...aka without much of a recipe)
4 cups cooked elbow macaroni (approx. 2 cups uncooked)
3/4 lb. grated sharp cheddar cheese
4 Tbsp. butter, chopped into little chunks (put it in the freezer for a while first, it helps)
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 tsp. salt
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Mix your freshly boiled pasta with the 1/2 cup of sour cream until just covering pasta. Alternate several layers of pasta, shredded cheese and butter chunks. Mix wet ingredients with salt and pour over the top of the layers of pasta and cheese. Top with more cheese. Bake in 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes or so, until everything is melted together and begins to brown around the edges. Let sit out for at least 5-10 minutes before serving.