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Creamy mac and cheese with tarragon (as seen on TV)

Macaroni and cheese is one of the ultimate comfort foods.

By Blue Kitchen / January 12, 2011

This no-bake version of macaroni and cheese delivers comfort quickly, with a creamy finish and a slight kick.

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Marion’s in the kitchen again this week – and not just ours, but at Chicago TV station WCIU. They recently featured three home cooks making mac and cheese on their morning show, You & Me This Morning, and Marion was one of them! I’ll let her tell you about her creamy mac and cheese – and her TV appearance!

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I was already having a very nice birthday when Terry got an email from WCIU saying, we like your blog and we are doing a segment on local cooks’ macaroni and cheese recipes and will your wife be on our morning show? WCIU is one of the last locally owned and operated TV stations, period, with a low-key, welcoming morning show called You & Me This Morning and, really, when they asked, how could we say no? Because, as the hosts, Melissa Forman and Jeanne Sparrow, said, what is a more comforting food than macaroni and cheese? And cooks everywhere have their own versions, and are adamant about them.

Well, you know, that’s pretty true for me. I admire other macaroni and cheese recipes, but in the end I always make one fundamentally like this, which is distinct because it is not baked but creamy. I first started using this very elemental approach when our kids were little and their friends were always over, often miraculously appearing right at dinnertime. This dish is what happens when you have a houseful of kids who need to be fed, and soon, and who has time to go out and pick up food, and who knows what’s in that takeout stuff anyway?

Of course, the recipe can be tailored in many ways. You can multiply the quantities, endlessly. You can change up the herbs. If you really hate spiciness, cut down the quantity of hot sauce. Over the years we’ve made this with all sorts of cheeses (if you can find sharp Pinconning cheese, wow! and some time, try it with brie, seriously – not for the children but for yourself). The one thing I would not change is the dry mustard. It doesn’t impart a mustardy taste; the effect is subtle, but you really shouldn’t leave it out.

The whole point of this recipe is that this is inexpensive, accessible, with ingredients that are widely available, and it can be made very quickly (in about half an hour, less time than it takes for you to run out for fast food or wait for the pizza to arrive). Because it is not baked, it has a soothing creaminess. In memory of my mother (who thought that any pale savory dish should have a sprinkling of paprika on it) it also includes a last-minute garnish of paprika – so little that you don’t really taste it, but it gives the whole a pretty finish. Thanks, Ma.

And by the way, you know how, when you see hosts on a talk show, and they seem so nice and sweet, and you wonder what they really are like? Well, at WCIU, the answer is: even nicer live than on TV. Jean and Melissa, the hosts, were welcoming and friendly and smart and lovely, and every single person behind the scenes was that way too. It was a pleasure to meet Danyel and Anthony, my fellow cooks. The whole thing was just a lot, lot, lot of fun. And I got to show off on TV. How’s that for a birthday present?

(See next page for recipe)

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