A Crowd-Pleasing Mac and Cheese with a Secret Southern Ingredient
Stacey Little, the Alabama food blogger behind Southern Bite shares his favorite macaroni and cheese recipe—with a surprising ingredient.
When I was a kid, my grandparents both worked at a tiny store in rural southwest Alabama. It was one of those places where you could get gas, have a tire changed, get groceries, and even pick up the feed for your cattle all in one place—a community hub of sorts. You could still put things on your tab there. My grandfather was the butcher and my grandmother worked as the only cashier. I have such fond memories of the time I spent with them during the summers there.
No sooner than I could get through the front door of the store, I was met with an ice cold Chocolate Solider soft drink in a glass bottle. It was that or either a bottle of Coca-Cola and a package of salted peanuts. But the real treat in that store wasn't found up front. It was found in the round wooden box back by the meat case: red rind hoop cheese.
In the mornings, my grandfather would cut thin slices of the cheese, put it on bread, and toast it in the little toaster oven back in the store room. I can still remember the smell of that back room. It smelled like sweet cattle feed, fertilizer, and cardboard—an odd combination, but one that I'll never forget.
My grandmother would then take that same hoop cheese and make macaroni and cheese for supper. It was always so creamy and delicious. Hoop cheese doesn't have a strong flavor, but has a creaminess that I think works so well in dishes like macaroni and cheese.
Since those days, every time I'm able to find that red rind cheese, I always get some—enough to snack on and, of course, some to make macaroni and cheese. It’s a delicious vehicle that takes me back to those days sitting on the drink cooler chatting with my grandmother while she wrote up each person’s bill.
My recipe for Classic Baked Macaroni and Cheese is a tried and true Southern Living favorite. The only thing I do differently is use that red rind hoop cheese. (If you can’t find hoop cheese a sharp cheddar works great too.) I just know you’ll love it.
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Blogger and Wall Street Journal best-selling author Stacey Little is committed to getting folks back to the table for dinner. His quick and easy recipes are helping busy families get a home-cooked meal on the table without a lot of hassle or expense. Southern Living Magazine has repeatedly named Stacey a top blogger to follow and a favorite Southern blogger. He has appeared on The Today Show and Fox and Friends and has lent his talents to national brands like Betty Crocker, White Lily, Martha White, Kraft, Queen Latifah, and Reese Witherspoon—just to name a few. Today, his easy, delicious recipes and heartfelt stories have brought tens of millions to his blog, SouthernBite.com, since he created it in 2008. Stacey's cookbook, The Southern Bite Cookbook, is available at book retailers across the country and online. Stacey's deep Southern roots have him firmly planted in central Alabama where he lives with his wife, little boy, two dogs, and his collection of cast iron skillets.