Have you ever ordered a dish at a restaurant, took one bite, and said to yourself “I just gotta try making this at home?” That’s exactly what I said about J. Alexander’s NYO Mac n Cheese. NYO meaning… Not.Your.Ordinary! They should just cut to the chase and call it what it really is. Freakin’ awwwwesooooome! Its smooth, silky creamy texture pops in your mouth the minute it hits your taste buds. It’s just the right amount of richness with a hint of onion flavor. It has a crunchy topping of panko breadcrumbs that lend the perfect complement. I personally would call this the best mac n cheese E.V.E.R!
I won’t usually order mac and cheese out because it’s always such a disappointment. Except when I go to J.Alexander’s…this is the only side dish I ever order. I was making a meatloaf one afternoon and thought that mac n cheese would be a great comfort food side dish. I started googling copycat J Alexander mac n cheese recipes and after what turned out an arduous task came up with this copycat recipe over at T’s Recipes which seemed to have the most responses of people who tried it that commented it was very close.
After making this a couple of times now, and adjusting just a few things from the other recipe, I think I have perfected my own personal copycat recipe of this magnificent mac n cheese dish. Given I have a serious obsession with ramekins these days, I made individual portions just like they serve at the restaurant. By all means feel free to bake it in one dish.
*Update February 19, 2014: I recently made this and made some adaptions based on a reader’s suggestions below, and it came out even more delicious than before. The tips really helped and got closer to the recipe. The best part was it stayed creamy and smooth and leftovers the next day were just as delicious!
- 2 cups (8 ounces) Cavatappi or pasta of your choice
- 1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- ½ cup chicken stock
- 2 cubes chicken bouillon
- 1 Fresh lemon slice
- 1½ tsps sugar
- 3 tablespoons butter -- divided plus extra for greasing pan
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ½ cup sour cream
- ½ cup half and half
- ½ small yellow onion minced
- 1clove of minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon Tabasco (more if you prefer a spicy kick)
- heaping ½ cup fresh grated Gruyere cheese
- 2¼ cups fresh grated Parmesan cheese
- Freshly ground black pepper (this dish does not need salt as there is plenty in the chicken stock. bouillon and cheese)
- ½c Panko bread crumbs
- Bring 6 cups water (no salt) to rolling boil in medium saucepan.
- Add pasta and cook until al dente, 6 to 8 minutes. (I like it to have a little hard bite bc it get's baked it in the oven.)
- Drain and put in large baking dish. Toss with Extra Virgin Olive Oil. If using ramekins, divide into 3-4 small ramekins.
- Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large saucepan over medium-low heat.
- Sautee onion and garlic in butter for a few minutes to draw out the flavor
- Whisk in flour and cook, whisking constantly, 2 minutes.
- Gradually whisk in chicken stock, 2 cubes chicken bouillon, heavy cream, half n half, and sugar.
- Simmer gently, stirring often, 15 minutes.
- Remain on low heat and stir in 2 cups parmesan cheese and most of gruyere. Reserve a small amount of the gruyere with the remaining parmesan cheese. Set aside for now.
- Season to taste with pepper.
- When cheese has completely melted add lemon slice to mixture. Remove after a couple minutes.
- Remove pan from the stove. Fold in sour cream and tabasco.
- Pour half of mixture slowly, divided into 3-4 ramekins or your baking dish, over macaroni. Stir to incorporate.
- Now sprinkle remaining cheese mixture over macaroni.
- Top with remaining cheese sauce mixture.
- Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in small skillet over medium heat.
- Add panko and toss to coat. Do NOT brown.
- Sprinkle buttered panko and over top of macaroni.
- Bake at 350: F. until panko is golden brown and mixture is bubbly, about 25-30 minutes.
- Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Makes 4 servings.
Have you every tried a copycat recipe of your own?