Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Ingredients:

3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp white pepper
1 bay leaf
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1 egg
12 oz grated cheddar cheese
8 oz elbow macaroni
1 cup Japanese bread crumbs
1/4 cup melted butter

The Process:

Boil macaroni for only 6 minutes. Rinse with cold water, set it aside.
In a big saucepan, melt 3 tbsp butter over medium-high heat, and lit it sizzle for a couple minutes till is stops bubbling. Add flour and cook a couple minutes until the roux is dark blonde. Add the salt, white pepper, and bay leaf and cook until it’s a thick paste. Whisk in the milk slowly and keep whisking almost constantly for a few minutes till the mixture starts to bubble and thicken.
Scramble the egg; temper it by adding 1 tbsp at a time of the roux at a time five times, stirring it in after each tbsp; add egg mixture back to the rest. Remove from heat; stir in the cheese a handful at a time. Fold in the noodles.
Dump it all into a 9″x9″ square glass baking dish. Mix bread crumbs with the melted butter and spread it evenly over the top.
Bake at 350° for 30 minutes.

Tips & Gotchas:

Don’t overcook the macaroni. Only 6 minutes is enough. It will still be quite firm, but remember it’ll cook more in the oven in all the surrounding liquid.
Don’t burn the butter – that’s easy to do if the heat is too high.
Pre-heat the milk (microwaving it is fine) before adding it to the roux. It’ll incorporate better that way and won’t take as long for the Béchamel to get done.
Take the mixture off the heat before stirring in the cheese. Cheese melting into a too-hot boiling Béchamel sauce will cause the oil to separate out, causing a blobby oily mess.
When you mix the noddles and sauce all together, it will be quite wet. But don’t panic — the noodles will absorb a lot of liquid in the oven. The original recipe calls for 3 cups of milk, but I’ve found 2 1/2 to be better.

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