the Cafe Lulu version by Lou Jane Temple
I had a restaurant in Kansas City in the 90’s and one of the most popular items was this version of macaroni and cheese. The key to a good mac and cheese is the timing. Don’t add the sauce to the noodles until you are ready to pop it in the oven and serve it as soon as you can when you take it out of the oven. Despite its popularity with school cafeterias, it is not a dish that holds well. The pasta absorbs the sauce and you end up with sticky, dry noodles.
1 pound elbow macaroni
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus additional for the
¼ cup butter (1/2 stick)
¼ cup flour
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups half and half
½ cup grated Gruyere cheese
1-2 cups grated cheddar cheese, medium or sharp
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon each of kosher salt and ground white
¼ teaspoon paprika, sweet or hot
For the Topping:
1 package (10 oz) potato chips
½ cup butter (1 stick)
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Cook the macaroni according to package directions and drain it. Pour it into a lightly oiled baking dish of sufficient size and depth to hold the macaroni and cheese mixture. A 9 by 13 Pyrex dish will do, but it is barely big enough. I like using a larger round terra cotta casserole or a Le Cruset casserole. Add the 1 tablespoon of oil to the noodles and toss them to prevent sticking. Cover the noodles and the casserole with clear,plastic film and reserve until needed.
- To make the sauce, melt the butter over medium heat in a medium to large saucepan. Add the flour and continue cooking, whisking this butter/flour mixture until it has thickened and is a caramel color. Add the stock and whisk smooth. Add the half and half and whisk smooth again.
- Once the sauce is thoroughly heated and starting to thicken, add the three cheeses, one at a time. Reduce the heat to low and stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Add the salt, pepper, and paprika and continue stirring until all the cheese has melted. Remove from heat and reserve until needed.
- To make the topping, open one small corner of the potato chip bag to let the air out. Using a rolling pin or meat tenderizer, smash the potato chips while they are in the bag, taking care not to let the chips escape out the open corner of the bag.
- Melt the butter in a medium size sauté pan over medium heat. Add the crushed chips and the Parmesan. Toss gently to coat the chips with bitter and cheese.
- Preheat the oven to 375° F. Pour the cheese sauce over the macaroni, gently jiggling the baking dish to distribute the sauce down in the noodles. Top with a generous layer of the chips, pushing the chips down lightly into the macaroni and cheese. Bake until the cheese sauce bubbles and the top is browned, 50-60 minutes, depending on the depth and size of your baking dish.
Lou Jane Temple is a working chef and author of nine culinary mysteries(St. Martin's and Berkley) and one cookbook (Stewart, Tabori & Chang).