Last year, on a trip out of town, my husband, son and I stopped to eat dinner at a family owned restaurant. Being a creature of habit, I ordered a vegetable plate. I don't remember what two of the vegetables were, but I vividly remember the third one: macaroni and cheese. It definitely had a twist to it and it wasn't the pasta! Two differences were clearly visible. One, the sauce was made with white -- not yellow -- cheese. Two, the ingredients weren't baked in the oven.
My son also had macaroni and cheese and agreed it was delicious. We started talking about how to duplicate the dish at home when Bill, the cook and owner of the restaurant, came to our table to see if we needed anything. When I complimented him on the macaroni and cheese, he confirmed that my two observations about the dish were correct.
He used queso blanco -- a creamy, soft, unaged white cheese -- instead of Cheddar. Rather than baking the ingredients, he stirred the cheese sauce into the cooked macaroni. He proceeded to give me the recipe which made an enormous amount of macaroni and cheese. It took some experimenting, but I was able to reduce the ingredients and make the dish using an eight ounce package of macaroni.
The sauce starts with a roux -- a mixture of equal parts fat and flour -- that is cooked until the mixture makes a smooth paste.
Milk is gradually added to the roux. Through trial and error, I discovered that 1 1/4 cups milk makes a sauce that's the perfect consistency, not only when it's served, but when leftovers are reheated in the microwave. The mixture is cooked until it's thickened, but not too thick. The cheese will also act as a thickener.
The pan is removed from the heat and the queso blanco is stirred into the mixture.
The sauce is poured over the macaroni and then stirred.
Queso macaroni is a nice alternative to baked macaroni and cheese. The cheese may be different, but the finished product goes well with any entree that you'd normally serve with macaroni and cheese. My son thinks it's especially good with corn dog casserole. As far as he's concerned, those two foods are a match made in culinary heaven.