Technically it wasn't an emergency. I stepped out onto the porch and was greeted by a brisk breeze and fairly comfortable temperatures. I thought, Holy Carp it might actually be autumn! I took the Hound on his morning constitutional and didn't sweat. At all. What madness was this? Oh, in northern parts they call it "the change of seasons." (Say that with awe in your voice and a gong sounding in the background.) It might actually be happening. Here!
I did what every self-respecting person does when faced with the mere thought of using a quilt in the very near future. I cooked up a batch of macaroni and cheese. Now I'm the type that is continuously searching for the best mac n cheese recipe. It's a compulsion really. I started with Martha's recipe and have been on a quest ever since. Not because I didn't like Martha's version (her buttered bread cube topping is swoon-worthy) but because I also wanted easy to throw together. And we all know that Martha isn't necessarily known for her ease of recipe.
I discovered an Epicurious recipe that had high promise with a bread crumb topping, but it was bland. So bland that we could barely finish the pan. However, the topping idea stuck with me. My general philosophy in life was that bacon made everything better. In this case, it was magic.
½ stick unsalted butter
2 cups panko bread crumbs (I used homemade)
1 ½ cups coarsely grated extra-sharp cheddar
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 strips bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
1 stick unsalted butter
6 TBS all-purpose flour
5 cups whole milk
6 cups coarsely grated extra-sharp cheddar
½ cup Parmesan cheese
1 lb. elbow macaroni
Topping: Toss everything together in a bowl except butter. Melt butter (I did this in the same pan that I cooked the bacon.) then pour over mixture. Combine until evenly coated.
Then try not eating the topping as you cook the rest. I had a lot of extra topping, so I froze the excess.
Cook elbow macaroni according to instructions and drain.
Sauce: Melt butter in saucepan over low heat. Stir in flour and cook roux for three minutes then stir in milk. Whisking constantly, increase heat and bring to a simmer for three minutes. Stir in cheeses, 2 tsp salt, ½ tsp pepper, and 1 tsp dry mustard. Continue whisking until sauce is completely smooth. Remove from heat.
I combined the pasta and sauce in the pan then poured it into a 12x9 pyrex pan. Sprinkled it (heavily) with the topping and baked it for 20 minutes in a 375° oven. Keep an eye on it because 1. It may bubble over and 2. The topping will brown quickly.