We are going beyond the box to bring an 1885 Louisiana mac and cheese recipe back to life. Our national obsession with this essential isn’t new. President Thomas Jefferson (a total renaissance man and foodie) brought back a macaroni machine from his travels in Italy. The word spread from there. Our recipe come from the famous New Orleans “La Cuisine Creole”, which was published in 1885. The cookbook asks you to soak the macaroni for an hour before cooking and doesn’t specify the type of cheese. Say what? Vague directions are typical of recipes from yesteryear as they served as outlines for folks who were already pros in the kitchen. Fear not! We have come up with an easy step-by-step that makes for a bowl of cheesy perfection.
Adapted from: “La Cuisine Creole: A Collection of Culinary Recipes From Leading Chefs and Noted Creole Housewives, Who Have Made New Orleans Famous for Its Cuisine” by Lafcadio Hearn, 1885
*updates in italics
• Preheat oven to 400° F
• Take 8 ounces of macaroni and boil it until al dente.
• Take it out of the pot (strain) and put half of the boiled macaroni in the bottom of a small casserole dish and then a thick layer of grated cheddar cheese;
• Strew over sprinkle of salt and some lumps of butter as big as nutmeg (translation: thin slices of butter).
• Make another layer with remaining pasta and cheese.
• Then fill the dish with heavy cream (until it has reached top layer) and bake about 30 minutes until browned on top, but never let it get dry;
• It is better to put water in, if your milk has given out, than let it get the least dry. This is a rich dish when well made, but a poor one if badly made, and served dry (true that).
Our modern twist:
• Deseed and chop one small jalapeno
• Chop 4 ounces of andouille sausage
• Combine and add to cheese layer
Baroness on the Bayou
Ailsa “Elsa” von D recently moved to the Red Stick from Washington DC. She was a contestant on season 6 of FOX’s “MasterChef” and a frequent culinary presenter at Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Dedicated to tasty time travel, she is in search of the South’s long lost foodie favorites. For more about Ailsa von D, follow her on Instagram @baronessonthebayou.