Early April has it's share of dilemmas. It is definitely spring, but it can still feel a little like winter at times. Take yesterday for example. The wind was blowing so strong I was keeping eye on the horizon for fears of farmhouse laden twisters and any villainous characters who happen to live somewhere west of here. Thankfully that never happened and no one was sucked into a technicolor dream world. But the winds were a reminder of the changing of the seasons and soon one of my favorite seasons will draw to a close. I'm not talking about winter either. I'm talking about comfort food season. Sure spring and summer have their own comfort foods, but in my opinion the idea of true comfort foods are meant solely for the colder months. That's when that extra butter, cheese, bacon, etc. are the most appreciated. So with what appears to be a final farewell to that glorious time, let's say good bye properly with this Buttermilk Mac 'n Cheese. The buttermilk brings a certain tang to the sauce that helps bring this dish into springtime.
8 oz. elbow macaroni
8 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
8 oz. buttermilk
2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp panko or regular bread crumbs
4 sprigs fresh marjoram
1/8 tsp smoked sweet paprika
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large pot, bring three quarts of water to a boil. Add salt to season. Cook macaroni until al dente. Remove from heat, drain, briefly rinse under cold water, and drain again.
While the macaroni is cooking, heat the butter in a pan over medium heat. Once melted, whisk in the flour until well combined. Reduce heat and gently cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture just begins to darken. This is a roux. Mix in 6 oz. of the shredded cheese, the buttermilk, and the paprika. Stir until the cheese is mostly melted and then turn off the heat. Add 3 of the 4 sprigs of marjoram and continue stirring for five minutes. At this point the cheese should be completely melted and the marjoram should have flavored the sauce. Remove the marjoram and stir in the cooked pasta. Mix well to combine and season with salt and pepper.
Pour into your cooking vessel (I used two small and shallow ovenproof bowls). Top with the remainder of the cheese and the panko. Cover loosely with foil and bake for 20-30 minutes. Remove foil to brown the top. You may want to move the dish closer to your broiler if you want, but watch it closely as the breadcrumbs can very easily burn.
Remove from oven and sprinkle with chopped marjoram from the 4th sprig. Allow to cool for a few minutes before devouring.