Modernist macaroni and cheese

no-flour mac and cheese

No-flour mac and cheese

Hi, Adam here. Let’s get this cooking blog started with some classic American comfort food—macaroni and cheese.

Of course, since this a modernist cooking blog, I have to do it in the weirdest way possible. The Book suggests you try making the cheese sauce without flour, to avoid dulling the flavor. Of course, the other purpose of flour is to keep the cheese from separating into an oily mess. To get that silky texture, the recipe uses sodium citrate instead.

As far as texture goes, this stuff is magical—I got a smooth cheese sauce, with a consistency slightly thinner than the goopy yellow substance that your school carnival scoops over nachos. We used medium cheddar cheese, making this about as close to the blue box as you can get while still using actual cheese (OK, that’s not very close).

Flavor-wise, it is less perfect. Even without adding extra salt, I found it a little salty, with flavor notes that came across as somehow artificial. It turns out that sodium citrate is not a free lunch: eaten plain, it tastes of lightly salted metal. Most of the cheeses recommended by the book are quite strong (white cheddar, Gruyère, Gorgonzola, etc.), which would conceal this pretty well.

The cheese sauce works wonderfully over broccoli and cauliflower, and I think this will be how I use most of the leftovers. The cheese sauce keeps for quite a while in the fridge.

Modernist Cheese Sauce

Boil the water, and add the sodium citrate. Add the cheese to the water a little bit at a time, whisking furiously to incorporate it. You can use an immersion blender if you have one, but we did just fine with a wire whisk.

Serve over macaroni, nachos, broccoli, or whatever you have that needs a good cheesing.

Page 310 of the Book