Aren’t You Impressed?

August 10th, 2011 · 19 Comments · Dinner, Pasta, Vegetarian

How…why….does one find oneself prepping homemade macaroni and cheese in a 425° oven on a 100° day when there is a perfectly fine box of 10-minute stovetop Annie’s Mac & Cheese in the pull-out pantry? It seemed so logical the day before when I made dinner plans out with my friend Elizabeth and her husband. I had a babysitter booked so I suggested they drop their kids at our place while the four grown-ups went out to a local Italian spot. I’ll make sure there’s dinner here for the kids, I offered. “George likes macaroni and cheese, right?”

“It’s his favorite thing,” said Elizabeth.

It’s not that I like Elizabeth more than most of my friends, but…well, maybe I do. And maybe that’s why, when she and her husband come over, I find myself splurging for the truffled Pecorino on the cheese plate instead of the aged gouda, or going out of my way to track down the delicate farmer’s market kale instead of the tougher Stop-and-Shoppy kind. Do you have friends like this? Who you want to impress? I mean, Who bring out the best in you? Everybody does, right? This is what I convinced myself when I was whisking up the bechamel at 5:00, boiling gemelli, cranking my oven past the 400-degree mark — because apparently 15 out of 20 days over 90 degrees in New York has not been hot enough for me. But, I have to say, 45 minutes later I did have a damn good looking baking dish of golden, bubbly mac-and-cheese to serve Elizabeth’s boys. So what if Elizabeth herself wouldn’t be eating it — she would see my macaroni magnum opus when she dropped them off and…I had to wonder where this thought was leading me. She’d see it and…what? Like me more? Seriously. Why? What the…? Who am I cooking for? What am I trying to prove? What is wrong with women? I don’t know a single man who would find himself in this position. Do you?

I got a call right before Elizabeth was due at my house. She was running late at work so her babysitter would drop the boys off and she would meet us at the restaurant. “Hope that’s OK!”

No. Nothing about this was OK. At all.

Mac & Cheese Notes

I followed Bittman’s recipe to the letter for this one. Except at the end, I use my friend Kate’s trick and crumble potato chips into the bread crumb topping. Also, I like prepping the M&C in advance when I’m entertaining families — it’s a nice “bridge” dish that can be the main for the kids and a side for the grown-ups. (Especially if BBQ chicken is on the menu.) Just prepare until the point where you top with bread crumbs, then refrigerate, pull out about an hour before you want to serve, and continue with instructions.

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19 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Lisa (This Little Piggy) // Aug 10, 2011 at 8:16 am

    That is very funny! I definitely have “those” friends too! I have a great stovetop recipe that has 4 cheeses and cream and it relatively quick.

  • 2 julie // Aug 10, 2011 at 9:26 am

    This made me laugh. I bet you are that friend for Elizabeth too! And macaroni and cheese looks yummy. I will try that out as soon as the weather gets colder. :)

  • 3 Amanda // Aug 10, 2011 at 10:46 am

    I love this recipe, too. I call it a “knocks-off-socks” type of recipe, because out of that huge book of recipes, it is the only one that has a post it note on the page for easy access.

    And yes, I have friends that I do whip myself into a culinary frothy frenzy for. And it’s a little embarrassing, but they seriously appreciate the work and the quality ingredients that goes into a meal. When my friend takes a bite of my salad and says “Did you use truffle oil in this?” I wanted to kiss her because my husband doesn’t even notice these things (most of the time)!!!!

  • 4 Jen // Aug 10, 2011 at 11:41 am

    Wait, I missed it. Why exactly is a delicious baked mac and cheese not an acceptable main course for adults? ;) As long as a salad has been eaten at some other point during the day then you’re fine.

    This recipe is going on my list to try out the next chance I get. One cannot have enough mac and cheese recipes.

  • 5 Gretchen // Aug 10, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    Oh my god, I absolutely love this post! I’ve been there….

  • 6 monica // Aug 10, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    That kind of thing happens to me all the time…the people that’ll think I’m amazing for the dish I’m bringing to the get together, cancel at the last minute.

    And my husband will definitely compete/want to impress over a football game in the yard or how fast he can get from one state to another in a car, but never over how neat the house is or wether the pie crust is store bought or homemade.

  • 7 Zoe // Aug 10, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    I love making macaroni and cheese and I agree its great served with BBQ chicken. Its funny how on days when its super hot BBQ is the way to go, even though the chef is the one sweating in the kitchen!

  • 8 Courtney // Aug 10, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    Love the honesty of this post – and yes, what man would even begin to think of doing something like this? Too funny.

    Recipe looks awesome as well!

  • 9 Kim // Aug 10, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    My husband comes fromone of those families where mac and cheese is eaten year round. In fact, it is considered a grave tragedy if one is not brought to a family potluck. Having cranked out four this summer alone, you have my sympathy!

  • 10 Charissa - The Gifted Blog // Aug 10, 2011 at 7:58 pm

    Jenny, I relate. And, no, I don’t think my husband would think to do this, either! It’s odd how we can get a certain ‘special dish’ in mind and carry our plans to completion…no matter the cost.

    Appreciate your candidness. : )

  • 11 Lisa // Aug 10, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    Even better than breadcrumb topping? Crumble up Ritz or Club crackers, brown in a small skillet filled with melted butter. You will never use mere breadcrumbs again. And, another fun trick is to put the Mac and Cheese in ramekin bowls, top with buttery crackers and bake. Each person gets their own dish of yummy goodness.

  • 12 Jamie // Aug 10, 2011 at 10:54 pm

    First, when I read the title I immediately thought in my head – Yes I am, I always am!
    Second, there is NEVER a bad time for homemade mac’n'cheese. Even I will go over my few ingredients rule for that. Trying this SOON!
    Third, so Elizabeth’s loss. Next time, send some home in a container for her as some leftovers!

  • 13 Rachel // Aug 11, 2011 at 9:49 am

    There is always room for mac and cheese – pleases guests young and old. Bittman’s recipe is a winner. Also try this one: .
    It is super gooey and rich – and has bacon too.

  • 14 Torrie @ a place to share... // Aug 11, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    Such truth in this post. Yes, I do have these friends, who bring out the very “best” in me :) .

  • 15 A Plum By Any Other Name // Aug 12, 2011 at 7:43 am

    Completely agree. There are some friends that just make you want to be the best “you.” And if that means making the best mac and cheese … well … then I’m for it all the more.

  • 16 Minty Pea Todd // Aug 12, 2011 at 10:47 am

    I know someone who ate this exact mac & cheese dish room temperature and he told me was truly impressed.

  • 17 Hilary O'Donnell // Dec 7, 2011 at 11:46 am

    My grand-children’s favorite part of mac n’ cheese is the topping so I love the idea of switching it up by adding crumbled potato chips. Thanks!

    “Do I win the feast?”

  • 18 Murphy // Jan 23, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    Just FYI: the Bittman link no longer works

  • 19 jenna // Mar 23, 2014 at 6:06 pm

    bittman’s recipe is down! meow!

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