Recipe Review

This Stovetop Mac and Cheese Is Extra Smooth and Silky, Thanks to One Surprising Ingredient

updated Dec 1, 2020
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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell; Design: The Kitchn

Todd Porter and Diane Cu are the husband-and-wife team behind the food blog White on Rice. They named themselves after a Vietnamese play called White on Rice in which the family sticks together like “white on rice” — and after more than 20 years of marriage and working together, it looks like they’re living up to the name. Their cookbook Bountiful, which features recipes inspired by their garden, was named one of the best cookbooks of 2013 by Food & Wine, Sunset, and Amazon, and they’re also regular contributors to Food & Wine.

Recently, as I was researching mac and cheese recipes for our celebrity recipe showdown, Todd and Diane’s stovetop mac and cheese recipe caught my eye. Out of all the ones I’d seen, it was the only recipe to call for eggs in the cheese sauce. I also really liked their inclusion of seasonings like mustard powder and smoked paprika. Would this new-to-me technique prove to be the best? I headed to the kitchen to find out.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell; Design: The Kitchn

How to Make Todd Porter and Diane Cu’s Easy Stovetop Mac and Cheese

You’ll start by boiling one pound of pasta in salted water until al dente. Drain and rinse it under cold water until it’s completely cool. Next, melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Whisk in milk, three beaten eggs, grated sharp cheddar cheese, salt, mustard powder, smoked paprika, and freshly ground black pepper. Stir until the cheese is completely melted, then cook until the sauce has thickened slightly. That’s it!

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

My Honest Review of Todd Porter and Diane Cu’s Mac and Cheese

This was a very tasty mac and cheese, but it didn’t quite pack the flavor punch that Carla Hall’s version did. I really liked the mustard powder and smoked paprika, but there wasn’t enough; a bit more of each would have brought more balance to the overall flavor. I was also missing a little heat from this recipe, and I think a pinch of cayenne pepper would have really made it. What I did really like was the technique used — the eggs really made the texture of the cheese sauce silky and smooth (it reminded me a bit of a custard). I’m curious how it would work with heavy cream or evaporated milk in place of the whole milk.

One other thing to note is that some of the timing estimates in this recipe are a little off. The recipe states to cook the cheese sauce mixture for two to three minutes, but after three minutes my mixture was far too loose and watery. It took me about three more minutes to achieve the right consistency. Additionally, when I added the cooked pasta to the cheese mixture, it took longer than stated to warm all the way through, resulting in slightly overcooked pasta.

Credit: Amelia Rampe

If You’re Making Todd Porter and Diane Cu’s Easy Stovetop Mac and Cheese, a Few Tips

  1. Bump up the seasoning. The mustard powder and smoked paprika were nice additions, but I wanted more. I would also add a pinch of cayenne to bring in some heat.
  2. Cook the noodles for less time. Instead of cooking the noodles to “al dente,” try cooking a couple minutes less. They’ll continue to cook after you stir them into the sauce.

Rating: 8/10

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell; Design: The Kitchn