I’ve always assumed that serving macaroni and cheese for Thanksgiving was purely a Southern thing. Always tasty, mac and cheese is also a thoughtful dish to include for your vegetarian-inclined guests.
It turns out that our Victorian forebears were the originators of this custom, although you might be surprised at what they considered to be the Ultimate Macaroni and Cheese.
Thanksgiving postcard circa 1900 showing turkey and football player. (Image courtesy of Wikipedia)
In 1883, macaroni was said to be an acquired taste, and was still unfamiliar to many. To make macaroni and cheese, housekeepers were advised to boil the macaroni, then mix in a tablespoon of canned tomatoes, and then add a layer of freshly grated cheese. On top of this, successive layers of boiled macaroni, canned tomatoes, and grated cheese, were added until the serving dish was filled. When the resulting meal was delivered to the Thanksgiving table, it might be more familiar to us as a sort of lasagna instead of the macaroni and cheese we know.
Most of us today prefer the cheesy variety on our Thanksgiving table. This recipe is rich and delicious, to be served only a few times a year. That’s the real secret of Southern cooking!!
Yield: 12 servings
1 pound elbow macaroni
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound sharp Cheddar cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon honey
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt and macaroni and cook for 4 to 5 minutes (until the macaroni is half cooked).
Butter a 3-quart baking dish, add 1/3 of the cooked macaroni and then layer with cheese, salt, and pepper; repeat this until the elbows have all transferred. Pour the milk and heavy cream over the macaroni. Drizzle with honey.
Cover the macaroni and cheese with tinfoil and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until the macaroni is brown and bubbling on top.