“Cheesy Does It!” when you’re looking for a fast and low-cost meal to serve after all the turkey leftovers are gone. Serena Altschul has the inside scoop:
It’s a family favorite . . . creamy, quick, delicious, and oh so cheesy!
Whose mouth doesn’t water over macaroni and cheese?
It’s the very symbol of comfort food.
“I would have to say that it is one of the great comforting foods of all time,” said cheese expert Clark Wolf, who is an authority on this all-American classic.
“It’s one of those experiences, at the table, that actually is as good as an adult, as it was as a kid,” he told Altschul. “I mean, you remember being happy. You remember being with Mom and Dad. You remember it being crusty at the top and bubbling and waiting for it to come out of the oven, and you remember all those things.”
Although it’s as American as, well, apple pie, the inspiration likely came from the British in the 1700s, who mixed cheese with cauliflower.
Mac and Cheese’s big moment, though, came in 1802 when President Thomas Jefferson served it at a state dinner at the White House.
Since that day, the simple combination of macaroni, cheese and butter has been an American staple, especially during tough times.
“You know, we have reentered the ‘macaroni and cheese economy,’” said Wolf, “and I don’t think we’re going anywhere for a while.”
Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, with its unique day-glow orange-powdered cheese, became America’s best-selling brand during the Great Depression.
In 1937, a Kraft sales rep came up with putting the cheese together with the macaroni, said Kraft Foods’ Eileen Sharkey Rosenfeld. “The idea of having of both things in one package was just revolutionary,” she said.
While Kraft’s familiar blue-boxed stuff has fed generations of families, the cheesy concoction is now one of the hottest trends in food, from cookbooks to sleek restaurants.
Macbar in New York City (left) serves nothing but Mac and Cheese. Chef Mike Ferraro puts a new spin on the old favorite, with 12 different flavor combinations.
“Mac and Cheese is kind of like a blank canvas, you know?” Ferraro told Altschul. “And then, we can just get creative and taste.
“That’s the best part - tasting all day,” he laughed.
“So low cal?” Altschul asked.
“No,” said Ferraro.
“A little slice of heaven?”
Owner Mark Amadei designed the very yellow restaurant as a tribute to the food he loved as a kid.
“Everything about this concept, from the logo to the design of the space to all the packaging to T-shirts is, you know, meant to exalt macaroni, the noodle. It’s been, you know, very successful.”
So successful, Mac and Cheese has even made its way to fine-dining.
We tagged along with Clark Wolf to visit New York’s ultra-exclusive Waverly Inn & Garden, where his friend, chef John DeLucie (left), makes perhaps the most opulent Mac and Cheese you could imagine: topped with white truffles worth its weight in gold - about $1,900 a pound, on the day of our visit.
The dish isn’t really on the menu, but word has spread.
“So on the menu tonight, how much is the Mac and Cheese?
“Today it will about around $95,” DeLucie said.
And still, about a third of the restaurant’s customers order the white truffle special.
Maybe, even at that price, Mac and Cheese is as comforting as ever . . .
Recipe, from Chef John DeLucie at Waverly Inn & Garden:
Truffled Macaroni and Cheese
For more info:
Macbar, 54 Prince Street, New York City
Waverly Inn & Garden, 16 Bank Street, New York City (no Web site or phone)
“The Hunger: A Story of Food, Desire and Ambition” by John DeLucie (Ecco Press)
“American Cheeses: The Best Regional, Artisan, and Farmhouse Cheeses” by Clark Wolf (Simon & Schuster)
Clark Wolf Company
”Macaroni & Cheese” by Marlena Spieler (Chronicle Books)
Noel Barnhurst Food Photography
Culinary Arts Museum at Johnson & Wales University
Check out the CBS News “Sunday Morning” Recipes Index for more tasty selections from our guests, contributors and Bon Appetit magazine!