Every year Roommate and I throw a big [too bit for our apartment] Christmas party. What started as a small gathering with our friends from work four Decembers ago, has now turned into an all out bash that brings together people from just about every corner of our lives.
Just like the guest list, the party menu has grown with each passing year. Some dishes have been staples, like Giada’s Bruchetta and my favorite toffee bars, but I love adding new creative apps to the menu each year that are reflective of my friends’ and my personal tastes.
2013 has been a big time mac n cheese year in Spatularette world, so I thought it would be fun to figure out how to serve it as an appetizer. But how on earth do you transform a creamy dish that I normally eat in a bowl into a hand held bite?
With mini muffin tins of course!
The key to success with these is to make them extra creamy before baking so they don’t dry out in the oven. The second trick is to chill them completely (I chill them over night) before baking, to ensure that they hold their shape in the oven. I cook mine on the bottom rack of the oven to help create a crispy edge, without over cooking the centers. And last but not least, you absolutely must let them cool for 15-20 minutes in the tins before trying to remove them. [no worries, the centers will still be nice and hot.] Once cooled enough to firm up a bit, run a knife around the edge of the tin and gently lift. The mac n cheese should slide right out.
Somehow I did not capture a single photo of the food spread at the party, but here’s the breakdown:
- Antipasta tray
- Bacon Cheddar Chive Dip [from Wegman’s!]
- Crockpot Crab Dip [this year I baked it with parmesan on top]
- Whipped Feta
- Spinach Dip
- Roasted Red Pepper Dip
- Giada’s Bruchetta
- Puffed Cheesesteaks
- Baked Mac n Cheese Bites
- Christmas M&M Cookies
- White Chocolate Peppermint Sugar Cookies
- Oatmeal, White Chocolate, Cranberry Cookies
- Rolled Oreo Cookies
- Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies
- Shortbread Swirl Cookies
- Toffee Bars
- Salted Caramel Butter Bars
- Mixed Drinks
- Cranberry Margaritas [I altered this recipe from a cocktail to a punch. Basically I just dumped a bunch of mixers into a giant jug with a handle of tequila until it tasted good, but still… Cranberry Margs.]
- 2 Tbs butter
- 1/4 cup flour
- 2 cups milk
- 8 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 2 cups elbow noodles
- mini muffin tins
Boil a pot of water and cook the elbow noodles per package instructions. Drain and set aside when done.
While the noodles are cooking, melt 2 Tbs of butter in a large skillet over medium heat on the stove top. When the butter is melted, add the 1/4 cup of flour and mix with a wooden spoon until well combined. Continue stirring the mixture for another minute to cook off the raw flour taste. Add the 2 cups of milk and stir vigorously until no lumps of flour remain. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly for about 10 minutes or until the mixture has thickened considerably. [when you run a wooden spoon through the milk, it should leave a streak at the bottom of the pan]. Add the cheese, and mix until melted and the sauce is smooth. Transfer the macaroni noodles to the pan with the cheese sauce, and gently toss until they are well coated. The mac and cheese will probably look too saucy at this point, but that’s exactly what you want.
Spray the wells of 4 dozen mini muffin tins with nonstick cooking spray, then transfer a heaping tablespoon of mac n cheese into each one. Chill the trays completely [I do it over night] then bake them at 350 degrees on the bottom rack of the oven when ready to serve. Allow the tins to cool for 15-20 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of each tin, and gently lift to remove the bite from the tray. Keep warm on a hot plate, but trust me when I say these won’t last long.
My mom’s mac n cheese recipe.
Nom nom nom and Merry Christmas.