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Nancy's Macaroni and Cheese: Southern Custard-Style Mac 'N Cheese

My sister makes macaroni and cheese that people line up to eat, and no family gathering is complete without her mac 'n cheese on the table. She nicely gave me her recipe. This is it. Sort of. As much as I can understand of what she told me. She doesn't really have a recipe, she said. The mac 'n cheese varies a bit each time she makes it. And she said her mother-in-law, from whom she learned how to make the mac 'n cheese, didn't use a recipe either. The version of mac 'n cheese my sister makes is a type popular in the South. It's a baked, custard version that includes lots of cheese and develops a crunchy top in the oven. It's quite rich and hearty. In the South, this version of mac n' cheese would be eaten "as is" for dinner or as an accompaniment to ham or perhaps a pork roast. Collard greens probably would be on the menu, too. My sister told me she uses whatever cheeses she has lingering in her refrigerator to make the dish--cheddar, Colby, Swiss, Gouda, Parmesan, etc. She grates what she has on hand and mixes them together, which is one reason why the dish varies from batch to batch. My sister did advise me to use a lot of sharp cheddar, as the dish is quite mild and needs the sharpness to give it a traditional "cheesy" taste. I suggested a number of additions, which mostly received a thumbs down from my sister, so I haven't included them here. But if you wanted to add some chopped spinach (hey, I like vegetables!), onions, and perhaps some grainy Dijon mustard, who's to tell.... Oh, and I topped my mac 'n cheese with sourdough bread crumbs (of course) and a little extra cheese before baking it....

Southern Custard-Style Mac 'N Cheese

Southern Custard Macaroni and Cheese -- Serves 4+

2 cups of uncooked macaroni

16 ounces of mixed, grated cheese (cheddar, Colby, Monterey Jack, Swiss, Gouda, Parmesan, etc.--3-4 cups)

4 eggs

2 1/2 cups of milk

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1/4 teaspoon of pepper

Cook the macaroni until it's barely tender and drain it. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and coat a 9-inch square casserole dish (or a 2-3-quart dish) with non-stick cooking spray. Add a layer of macaroni to the dish--just enough to cover the bottom of the dish. Add a layer of shredded cheese (a little more than a cup). Repeat the layers two more times--macaroni, cheese, macaroni, cheese. Whisk the eggs, milk, salt, and pepper together and pour them over the top of the macaroni and cheese layers. Bake the macaroni and cheese for 50-60 minutes or until golden brown and crusty on top. Let the mac 'n cheese cool for 5-10 minutes before serving it.

Southern Custard-Style Mac 'N Cheese

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