After nearly six days of fever, puke, sleepless nights, and obsessive amounts of disinfectant, the plague has left our household and our little 3-year-old is finally back to his normal self. It was a rough couple of days as this virus just did not seem to want to leave his system. I was getting a little worried about Matthew's noticeable weight loss from not eating much for a week but, as of this morning, his normal appetite has returned.
He even requested his weekend latte. He takes his morning pick-me-up very seriously.
He drank it voraciously. I have a feeling that he missed his coffee more than anything during his week of starvation.
"Stop taking pictures and let me drink my coffee in peace, Mom!!!"
This particular version of Mac and Cheese is the same recipe used by Panera Bread. There is probably only one other person in this world who loves Panera Bread more than I. And that would be my son. He is obsessed with Panera. Whenever he sees the familiar logo while we are driving through town, he points to it and proclaims: "Nera bagels and coffee!" This may or may not be entirely due to my taking him there with my Mom when he was merely a week old for his very first outing as a newborn! He usually requests simply a sliced Asiago bagel and a chance to watch a couple customers fill their coffee mugs (it's an addiction). While I have never ordered their Mac and Cheese in the cafe, I have seen many, many patrons enjoying it and the smell has always been so enticing. When I saw that Panera published the recipe on their website, I gave it a try. Both Paul and Matthew were in melty, cheesy heaven. Paul especially was singing my praises (then again, it really does not take much to impress him). This was one of the last "cheese meals" before our "Lent without Cheese" began last Wednesday.
There are so many different variations of Mac and Cheese out there, but this one is particularly good due to the particular combination of cheese and the addition of a generous amount of Dijon mustard. It really elevates the dish.
Panera Mac and Cheese
adapted from the Panera website
16 oz small shells, macaroni, or nuggets pasta
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups milk
4 oz white American cheese, chopped or torn into pieces
8 oz extra-sharp white Vermont cheddar, shredded
1 tbsp Dijon mustard (more or less to suit your tastes)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp Frank's hot sauce
In a large stockpot, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain well.
While the pasta cooks, melt the butter in a 4-quart sauce pan over medium heat. When the butter has melted and has started to bubble, whisk in the flour. Cook for 1 1/2 minutes, whisking constantly. Gradually whisk in the milk until no lumps remain. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook milk mixture, whisking frequently, until it thickens and bubbles, about 8 minutes.
Remove saucepan from the heat and by the handful, stir in the cheeses allowing all of the cheese to melt into the sauce before adding more. Stir in the mustard, salt, and hot sauce. Return the sauce pan to the heat and stir in the pasta. Be sure to stir up the sauce from the bottom of the sauce pan and thoroughly coat all of the pasta with sauce. Cook for 1-2 minutes over medium-low heat until heated through. Serve hot in bowls with spoons.