Dec 17

Chat with Chef: Mac and Cheese

We can only imagine how excited you must be for this month's "Chat with Chef" feature -- we know we are! We're highlighting a comfort food favorite that spans all ages. That's right: It's mac and cheese in all its deliciousness, only the way SeaWorld San Diego can create it! Here's what Chef Axel had to say about this family favorite.

How did the decision to showcase mac and cheese in the park come about?
Everyone loves our mac and cheese, but we really only serve them during special events. So we decided to change that and offer them during our holiday celebration.

The classic mac and cheese is definitely a must. How did the idea for the other two types form?
Classic version of mac and cheese is a must, but so is BACON!! Besides that we tried to tie in the seasonal flavors of turkey and sweet potatoes. The results are Holiday Mac and Cheese, SnowWorld Mac and Cheese, and Mac and Cheese for purists.

What sets these apart from mac and cheese that you would find somewhere else?
The goal was not necessarily to set us apart but be compatible with California Lifestyle cuisine which can be found all over.

How can our readers “spice up” their own macaroni and cheese dishes at home?
Just like all comfort foods, creativity can be applied to the finishing touches without changing the actual recipe. Example would be serving mac and cheese in a Martini Glass, garnish with a bacon strip or chive stir. Or in a Chinese to-go box topped with teriyaki chicken stir-fry.

Why do you think mac and cheese have such a big appeal not only to kids but adults as well?
Comfort food – childhood memories – the make-me-feel-better-simply dish.

Serving mac and cheese for dinner on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day: Yay or Nay?
Christmas dinner is a family affair – serve food everyone likes. Top the mac and cheese with a California lobster tail or just keep it pure.

What’s a dish that definitely has to be on your dinner table for the holidays?
Spiced cider and ginger bread cookies is a must have in my home.

If you had to pick only one type of comfort food, which one would it be, and why?
I can’t just pick one. A great burger, well-prepared BBQ, a good chicken noodle soup, homemade mashed potatoes, chicken pot pies.

We know, we know, you've gotten hungrier after all that reading! But we're not done yet, because here's the best part. Chef Axel shared his very own baked mac and cheese recipe with us, and we're sharing it with you for you to try at home!

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Chef Axel's Baked Mac and Cheese Recipe

1 lb elbow macaroni – or any pasta you like
1 quart milk
1 stick Butter
Half cup flour
1 lb Gruyere – or Manchego (aged cheese)
Half pound of cheddar
Salt, pepper, nutmeg

Directions
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit
Precook pasta
Melt the butter in a large (4-quart) pot and add the flour, making a roux
Cook over low heat for 2 minutes
Add the milk and bring to a simmer until thickened and smooth
Remove from heat and add cheese
Season to taste
Add cooked macaroni and stir well
Pour into a 3-quart baking dish and bake until golden brown
Enjoy!

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Readers, stay tuned for the next "Chat with Chef!"