Mac 'n Cheese Rules

My wife and I spend the summers in Vermont. And, if there is something Vermonters love, it's comfort food. You know, things like meat loaf, mashed potatoes, fried chicken, all that good stuff. So, you could say they were ahead of the curve, culinary-wise. For the longest time the prevailing winds were for intricate, arcane complex dishes. But it seems we've gone back to the foods of our youth and heritage, not fancy Frenchy-fied extravaganzas, but good ole down home cookin'. Even major restaurants are promoting "Comfort foods." Maybe it's a sign of the recession, I don't know. But I do know one thing: one of the best comfort treats in the world is good old macaroni and cheese. The American classic. It's a universal dish, favored by both picky kiddie eaters and their adult parents.

So, in honor of this lowly, working class marvel, below is what we consider the best macaroni and cheese we've ever tasted. Yes, that's great praise indeed. It is the creation of Mrs. Sandra Gutzmann, of Crafstbury, Vermont, and who dishes out this gem at the Crafstbury Country Store. If you are ever in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom , you must make a stop at the Country Store and order Sandy's mac n' cheese. It's great take-out; you can munch it on a drive, or, as we do, take it home and feast.

Sandy was kind enough to give me her great recipe, and here it is.


1 pound macaroni
1 quart milk (either whole milk or 2 % milkfat)
1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, cubed
1/4 pound provolone, cubed
1/4 pound Swiss cheese, cubed
1 small onion, grated real fine
2 tablespoons flour mixed in 1/4 cup water (for thickener)
8 ounces of cream cheese
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crumbled

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cook macaroni in boiling salted water as per package instructions.
3. While macaroni is cooking, put milk in a medium saucepan and heat to a slow boil.
4. Add cheddar, provolone, Swiss cheese, and onion. Stir to mix. Once cheese is melted, add flour thickener and cream cheese. Stir till it's all blended together, and add salt and pepper.
5. When macaroni is done, drain and place in a 9 x 13-inch baking pan (it can be a glass baking dish or other---I prefer using a large cast-iron skillet). Pour cheese sauce over macaroni; and sprinkle Ritz crackers over it.
6. Bake for 1/2 hour to 45 minutes, or until cheese starts to bubble and the sides and edges turn brown.
Yield: 8 servings.
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