Macaroni and cheese battle

The mac and cheese off! The mac and cheese bowl! Mack and Cheez – the dynamic duo!

Whatever you call it, it’s the battle for the best macaroni and cheese.

Side note: We need to take more pictures. We need to take more pictures *before* the challenge has begun. 

Photo credit: Sarah Hodges

Game Night 04-08-15: Mak and Cheez: The Dynamic Duo

The contenders:

The judges:

  • Sarah Hodges
  • Kristi LaMonica
  • Brian Senesac
  • Melissa Severson
Photo credit: Alan Nudi

Judged on:

  • Presentation: 10%
  • Freshness of Ingredients: 10%
  • Pasta to Cheese Ratio: 10%
  • Mouthfeel: 20%
  • Overall Flavor: 50%

My macaroni and cheese:

Photo credit: Alan Nudi

Tara’s macaroni and cheese:

Photo credit: Tara Nudi

Final Score out of 200 Points:

  • My macaroni and cheese: 179
  • Tara’s macaroni and cheese: 184

I lost…by 5 points! Five points!!

The recipes used:

I found mine on SteamyKitchen.com.

Here was my thought process on the recipe selection: I have two go-to mac and cheese recipes. One of them is adapted from Country Crock Butter; the other is a tomato mac and cheese.

I decided to do neither.

I knew I really had to bring out the big guns on this one. Why? Because Tara is the best cook I know. If I didn’t beat her here, it would start a chain of no one being able to beat Tara. Game Night Competitions would turn into Game Night, AKA The Tara Show.

And…I didn’t beat her.

I am slightly less than awesome.

I did a trial run the Saturday before for people who, incidentally, don’t like lobster, so I simply omitted that part for them (it goes on top so it’s easy to do so). I followed the recipe to a tee.

One thing I did struggle with – in the end, tossing the lobster chunks with the melted butter, panko breadcrumbs, and Parmesan cheese – the cheese and breadcrumbs clumped together instead of sticking to lobster. Something to look into.

Tara adapted her recipe from Martha Stewart.

Like me, she did a trial run beforehand; the first time, she followed it exactly, but didn’t like it. She made her own adjustments and it came out perfectly.

Tara’s changes: She used a mix of cheddar and Gruyere (so did I – but I used sharp cheddar and she used white cheddar), added 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan, added 1/2 cup of Velveeta, swapped in ground mustard for the nutmeg, and used cavatappi pasta instead of elbows.

The judges indicated that while they liked the smoky flavor of mine a lot, they loved Tara’s creamy texture – she also got more points for a better pasta to cheese ratio.

When it came down to it, the more traditional recipe once again persevered – Tara’s creamy, gooey, comfort food dish what people are really looking for in a macaroni and cheese.

I’d also like to take note of the pasta shapes: I used elbow, and Tara used cavatappi. I’m not a fan of the latter, but many people feel the shape really holds the cheese in there. Tiny shell pasta is my go-to for macaroni and cheese, but I used elbow here because I chose not to deviate from the recipe in any way. Perhaps I should consider alternative shapes next time.

So, am I right about Tara’s reign as champion? Will the food competition turn into The Tara Show?

Photo credit: Sarah Hodges

We’ll find out…

Up next Game Night: Reigning Champion Tara Nudi goes up against Challenger Brian Senesac for the best cake.

My first thought here was: crap. Tara’s cakes are beyond perfection.

However! Our challenger comes from a baking family and has his own solid cake-making background. It will be an interesting battle indeed!