Oh how I love Pearl Bailey’s recipes! Her cookbook is definitely in my top 3 cookbooks of all time. It is often my bedside reading. Put this on your Christmas list, it is the funniest cookbook I’ve ever read.
As Pearl writes so beautifully, I will transcribe her recipe as written, but she is vague about quantities. At the bottom of this post I’ve given quantities for the version I made. Pearl’s recipe makes an ENORMOUS amount of Mac & Cheese, I would say it is enough for 20-24 portions, depending how greedy you are. I made 1/4 of the amount. I am living alone during the week and I just couldn’t cope with 23 portions of Mac & Cheese taunting me from the fridge every day until I had eaten it all…
This was, as you can probably imagine, delicious. I ate 3 portions, froze 2 portions and gave one big chunk to my lovely neighbour Corinna. Here’s Pearl’s description of how she makes this classic comfort food.
Macaroni And Cheese If I Say So Myself
Nobody ever has a little bit of my macaroni and cheese. Tony Bennett once ate so much of it at one meal he claimed he couldn’t eat for a month afterwards.
Macaroni and cheese is my most favourite personal recipe. I once tried to show how it was prepared on the Mike Douglas Show and people screamed with laughter.
This was because it had to be ready in about nine minutes of show time. I was really throwing it around. The prop man had taken my list of ingredients and had brought two or three times too much of everything. By the time I got everything rolling I was up to you know where in macaroni.
No matter how closely you follow my instructions, your macaroni and cheese will never taste exactly like mine, but we’ll hope. I never made the dish exactly the same way twice, but each time it gets more divine. I’ve had people come back to me and say, “Pearl, I tried it, but it didn’t taste like it did over at your house.” I could have told them that before they went away. You see, no two cooks get exactly the same taste in a dish. I’m not saying that one is better or worse than the other. I’m just saying that each cook puts a certain amount of himself in there.
Now I guess I had better try to tell you how it’s done. I prefer elbow macaroni to any other kind. When I want to make macaroni and cheese, I make the whole roast pan full, because macaroni and cheese is good day after day. I start with about 2 pounds of macaroni, boil it in the usual way until it is about 3/4 done. Then I run cold water over it and wash away all the milky whiteness (starch) that will come off. In fact, I try to make sure I get every bit of it away from the macaroni. I even put my hands down there to separate the pieces so that the water touches every part of the macaroni. There’s nothing worse, you know, than sticky macaroni.
Then I season the macaroni with salt, pepper, and butter. Usually 2 sticks of butter for this amount of macaroni. The next important thing to know is that you should use sharp Cheddar cheese, and pretty good cheese at that. The biggest mistake that most people make in trying to prepare macaroni and cheese is that they go a little short on the cheese. I use tons of cheese in mine, enough to go all the way through. After all, when the thing is done I know that I’m going to call it macaroni and cheese, and not macaroni and macaroni. Just chop it into hunks so you can spread it around generously.
Once I have the seasoned macaroni and the cheese in my roast pan, I pour milk right up to the top of the macaroni.
By the way, when you’re salting the macaroni, bear in mind that cheese has a certain saltiness in itself. So temper yourself. Next I slide the whole thing in the oven at 350 degrees (do not cover), and cook it until I see the cheese starting to melt. Then I take it out again and stir everything up real good with a spoon. I want to make sure that the melting cheese goes all the way through the macaroni. This is important. At this point I taste it to see that the mixture is right. If anything is missing, I put the finishing touches on right at this moment. Then I shove it back in the oven (still no cover) and let that baby get bubbly brown until I’m sure the cheese is fully melted all the way to the bottom.
Now, of course, you can serve it hot. Then the next day it’s better, and the third day it’s better still. When it’s cold, you can even slice it. That’s good too! When I’m going to reheat it, I just dip into the roast pan, which I keep in the icebox, and get out as much as I expect to use. Then I add a little milk so that I preserve that wonderful softness, and heat the whole thing up very slowly, I’m serious when I say it’s better the second day.
That’s all there is to it, and there’s nothing I would rather put in front of guests than my macaroni and cheese. I’ve even thought that of all the things I prepare, it’s probably the one that could come closest to being a good commercial product. The trouble is that I would have to be at that factory all the time, tasting and tasting to make sure that everything was just as it should be. I guess I had better just stick to my kitchen and wish you the same success that I have had with this version of macaroni and cheese.
WELL THANKS PEARL! I loved your Mac & Cheese and here’s the quantities I used for a 1/4 of your massive recipe, following your instructions. 1/2lb macaroni & 55g butter & 340g cheese & 850ml milk. At least I think from my scribbled note it was 850ml milk. As Pearl directed, I added milk to the top of my macaroni.
I LOVED IT.
This book is on the Xmas list ! High time I had a copy at last ! Despite loving most of the component ingredients though I’ve never quite learned to like mac&cheese that much, think it’s the milk and extra butter that makes it too rich for me . The easiet supper ever is to boil some pasta and melt cheese of choice into it [ I go for a blue or gorgonzola myself ] I much prefer my childhood school dinner fave from primary school – Cheese Pie, basically layers of thin sliced potato and cheese with a thick layer of cheese on top to crust and bubble up in the oven . Something had to make school worth going to and for me it was that !
I make Pearl’s mac and cheese several times a year. Always a smash hit. You can skip ALL the butter except for about a 1/4 of a stick to grease your baking dish. Even then I thin out the extra buttery sections from the now buttered pan and mix that soft butter with the elbow macaroni before I start adding the grated extra sharp white cheddar and milk. It’s a huge hit 100% of the time.
Wow Mark! Just reading your comment has made me enormously hungry. How I wish I hadn’t eaten all of this and that there might be – just might be – one portion hiding in my freezer somewhere! So pleased you love this recipe too. YUM!
Mmmmm – cheese pie! That reminds me of one of my favourite Vincent Price recipes – a potato dauphinoise made with gruyere if memory serves me rightly. DO ask Santa for Pearl’s book – you will LOVE IT.