Skillet-Fried Cheddar Mac and Cheese

Adapted from Zingerman’s Roadhouse, Ann Arbor, MI

This was the mac and cheese crowned the best in the country by Alton Brown on The Food Network, and it’s one of the fastest to make because it’s finished in a skillet rather than in the oven. It was created by Alex Young, the chef at this full-service restaurant that opened in 2003. The skillet frying caramelizes some of the cheese, a trick you can use for many mac and cheese dishes.

Recipe reprinted with permission from MAC & CHEESE by Ellen Brown, Running Press, 2012

Skillet-Fried Cheddar Mac and Cheese

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    1/2 pound macaroni 2 tablespoons heavy cream, warmed
    2 tablespoons unsalted butter 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
    3 tablespoons chopped onion 8 ounces raw milk Cheddar, grated
    1 bay leaf Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
    1 tablespoon all-purpose flour 1 tablespoon olive oil
    3/4 cup whole milk, warmed


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    • 1

      Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Cook the pasta until it is al dente.

    • 2

      Drain the pasta, run it under cold water, and return it to the pot.

    • 3

      Heat the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and bay leaf, and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the onion softens.

    • 4

      Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute, or until the mixture turns slightly beige, is bubbly, and appears to have grown in volume. Increase the heat to medium, and slowly whisk in the warm milk and cream. Bring to a boil, whisking frequently. Reduce the heat to low, stir in the mustard, and simmer the sauce for 2 minutes.

    • 5

      Add the cheese to the sauce by 1/2-cup measures, stirring until the cheese melts before making another addition. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Pour the sauce over the pasta, and stir well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

    • 6

      Heat a skillet over medium-high heat until it is very hot. Add the olive oil, swirling to coat. Add the macaroni, and allow it to cook for 3 minutes, or until a crust forms. Scrape the bottom of the crust with a metal spoon, and cook for another 3 minutes. Do not stir often. Cook until about 15 to 20 percent of the mixture is golden brown. Serve hot.


    Note: The sauce can be prepared up to 2 days in advance and refrigerated. Bring it to a simmer over low heat. Cook and fry the pasta just prior to serving.

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