Chow Town

Mac and cheese wars: KC has good contenders

Updated: 2013-06-28T15:58:57Z

By LOU JANE TEMPLE

Let me just say, upfront, that I make the best Macaroni and Cheese in town.

It was a popular menu item at Café Lulu and many folks remember it to this day.

I’ll share the recipe with you in a minute. The secret is to keep the macaroni, the sauce and the topping apart until you are ready to pop it in the oven.

Same goes on the other end. Try to take your mac out just before serving for maximum sauciness. Pasta absorbs the sauce after time and you end up with dry mac and cheese.

But if you don’t want to take the time and heat up the kitchen to make this dish, mac and cheese has become a favorite in Kansas City restaurants. It seems to be on all the chic menus.

Here is just a sampling, ones that I’ve actually tasted and enjoyed myself. If you have a favorite that’s not on the list, let me know.

But it won’t be as good as mine.

Avenue Bistro

Avenue has two models, the four cheeses for $7 and the lobster version for $12. The lobster version has a Newburg-style sherry sauce that is very good in a retro way. (338 W. 63rd. St., 816-333-5700).

Café Trio

Trio’s award winning version is different. Not as saucy, it contains bell peppers, tomato and Bel Paese and Fontina cheese. Unusual. $17. (4558 Main St., 816-756-3227)

Capital Grille

After my own, Capital Grille’s dish is my favorite mac and cheese in town. Lots of lobster and you know its fresh because they go through a lot of lobsters each week. Its very saucy. $16. (4740 Jefferson St., 816-531-8345)

Louie’s Wine Dive

Louie’s is so into mac and cheese, they have a separate heading on the menu for it. There’s lobster and shrimp or portobello, prosciutto and truffle. They’re in the $16 to $18 range. (7100 Wornall Road, 816 569-5097)

Rye

A restaurant that says it is all about the culture and food of the Midwest must have mac and cheese on the menu, and Rye does. Its under the sides, Mac and cheese with crispy bacon for $7. (10551 Mission Road, 913-642-5800)

Lulu’s Mac and Cheese

For the topping:

1 regular package potato chips

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

4 tablespoons butter

For the mac:

1 pound elbow macaroni, cooked, drained and oiled slightly so it won’t stick together.

For the sauce:

3 tablespoon flour

3 teaspoon butter

2 cups half-and-half or whole milk

2 cups chicken stock

3 cups grated cheddar

2 cups grated Gruyere cheese

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and white pepper

1 teaspoon paprika

Dash of hot sauce

To prepare the pasta: Cook the macaroni, drain and oil. Set aside.

To prepare the sauce: In a heavy saucepan at low heat, melt the butter. When butter is melted, add the flour and stir the roux until a golden brown color.

Add the half-and-half and stock to the roux and stir well. Let this mixture slowly thicken and come to a simmer. When it gets to the thickness you like, add the cheeses and the seasonings. If you like your sauce runny, add more liquid. If you must use milk, bring it to a boil first. Quickly take it off the heat. This should prevent it from breaking the sauce.

To prepare the topping: Open the bag of potato chips an inch or so to release the air, then crush the chips in bag, with a rolling pin or your hands mashing them through the bag. Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Toss the chips in the butter. Take off heat a let rest a minute. Then add the Parmesan cheese and toss.

To construct the dish: In a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking pan or any large casserole dish, add the macaroni. Pour the cheese sauce on gradually giving the pan a slam every once in a while to facilitate the sauce covering the pasta. After the sauce is poured, take the topping mixture and press it gently on the top. You will probably have some chip mixture left. Freeze it for later.

Bake at 350 degrees until it is bubbling and nicely browned. This usually takes 35 to 45 minutes.

Lou Jane Temple’s road to food has been a long and winding one. First as a rock n roll caterer back stage to the stars, then with her own Kansas City based catering company, Cafe Lulu, food writing, novelist, private chef. Lou Jane has written and had published nine culinary mysteries and one cookbook. She recently moved back to Kansas City and eagerly awaits the next chapter of her food career.

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