Dishes like mac n cheese are exciting to me. A few ingredients and a million ways to put them together. And, even though it's just a few ingredients, the results can be sublime or disasterous.
Most common, a cheese sauce is made from a roux and cheese. It's always been touchy for me. Sometimes smooth, sometimes grainy, just not reliable. Cheese and condensed milk is pretty good, better than a roux, definitely more reliable.
Then a year ago I saw this Modernist Cuisine variation that uses just water or milk and cheese *plus* a few grams of sodium citrate. While not entirely sure if it's a pH thing or an ionic strength phenomena - I don't care. It's kind of shocking. Warm up some water or milk, add the sodium citrate and cheese, whisk away and boom! Cheese sauce smooth as velveeta in a few minutes. I dumped in my cooked macaroni, blanched cauliflower, pepper, topped with panko, baked and dinner. I'll be playing with this for some time, it's quite a trick.
For the 3 of us:
milk, 200 g
sodium pyrophosphate/sodium bicarb mix, found at Mediterranean Imports for 50 cents a packet, 14 grams
cheese, 90 grams sharp cheddar, 90 grams mozzarella
dijon mustard (1T)
pasta (180 g dry) cooked in salted water
small head of blanched cauliflower
some rendered bacon
Some action shots
That's it. Find this ingredient and go nuts - it's pretty incredible.