Monday, December 06, 2010

A House Divided

Battle lines have been drawn and families have been divided over one particular food. You would think that something as innocuous as noodles would never inspire such passion.

I recently discovered the original introduction to Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, which was discarded on the cutting room floor for the version you are more familiar with.

Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
Sprang forth a grudge, a cry of mutiny,
Twixt parents, leaving lovers in between.
One house preferred their macaroni cooked
Atop a stove, and mixed with powdered cheese.
The other house used methods overlooked,
Real cheese and noodles baked with oven ease.
A feud beginning with protestation,
In which common sense never recovers,
This division over preparation
Served to separate two star-crossed lovers;
Th which, if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.

If you're familiar with the published version, you'll not that Shakespeare decided to forgo describing the reason for the "ancient grudge." But rest assured, it definitely involved macaroni and cheese.

You cannot hope to bring up the topic of macaroni and cheese without releasing a diatribe over which version is "the best." Our household is no different than most. You see, Thatboy grew up with "the blue box," Kraft macaroni and cheese. I can't remember ever having it in the house. Macaroni and cheese meant one of two dishes when I was growing up. My mom's homemade version was a casserole of cheese and noodles baked in a pyrex dish and cut into thick, dense, cheesy squares. If we were going for speed and ease, we would get the froze Stouffer's mac and cheese, which is today definitely one of the first foods I think of when I think "comfort food." (Even though I don't think I've had it since elementary school.)

So when I make macaroni and cheese at home, my go-to method involves what I'm familiar with, baking noodles and cheese in the oven. And don't get me wrong, Thatboy has never turned down macaroni and cheese in any form. But earlier this year, when I was going out of town for a few days, I asked Thatboy if he wanted me to pick up anything at the supermarket for his dinner while I was away. "Will you please buy me some Kraft Macaroni and Cheese?" And the poor boy put on such a pitiful look, how on earth could I say no?

Unfortunately for Thatboy, he can enjoy his Kraft only when I am out of town, since there's just something about neon orange powder that seems wrong to me. In the spirit of compromise, however, I decided to see if I couldn't reach a happy medium. (Think about what this could have done for the ill fated Romeo and Juliet) Macaroni and cheese started on the stovetop and finished in the oven. And I added some kick. Because if you want something to be better, you have two choices - bacon or spice. This macaroni and cheese would have been equally as delicious with the addition of bacon, but this time around I wanted to add a little fire instead. And instead of a double suicide, our story has a happy ending!

Spicy Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese
2 cups macaroni
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups shredded pepper jack cheese
1 can evaporated milk
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
tortilla chips

1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray a pyrex dish with baking spray. Cook macaroni and drain, returning to saucepan.
2. Add cheddar cheese, half of the pepper jack cheese, evaporated milk, black pepper, and crushed red pepper. Stir until combined and pour into pyrex dish.
3. Sprinkle top with remaining pepper jack cheese and crumbled tortilla chips. Cover with foil and bake 20 minutes.
4. Uncover and bake 10 more minutes.


  1. We never ever had kraft either. I'm a homemade mac and cheese kind of gal, through and through. I mean, that neon orange stuff doesn't even TASTE like cheese!

    Your homemade version looks AMAZING. Although now I think you've set off one serious craving...

  2. that looks so good! I have never made mac and cheese! why? I have no idea :-)