The Mac and Cheese Cookbook

Macaroni and Cheese

Allison Arevalo and Erin Wade met by happenstance, when they shared a table with their husbands at a crowded café one Sunday. Arevalo, who worked in marketing, and Wade, who was a lawyer, started chatting about their love of food. It only made sense because Wade had previously worked as a pastry and line cook in New York while Arevalo worked as a server there. The two decided they also had common goals, and opened Homeroom, a restaurant in Oakland, California, dedicated to everyone’s favorite comfort food, macaroni and cheese. Their new tome, The Mac + Cheese Cookbook, takes their favorite recipes from Homeroom, so that everybody from the United States (and the world!) can enjoy the delicious goodness of Homeroom’s macaroni and cheese. The Manual quizzed Arevalo and Wade on the first time they fell in love with macaroni and cheese, how their cookbook came about and the best macaroni and cheese to make on a date.

Do you remember the first time you each fell in love with macaroni and cheese?

EW: My father made a homemade mac and cheese that just kicked the pants off the stuff in the box and I was addicted to it from a pretty young age.

AA: My Italian grandmother was the star cook in our house, and she would make an amazing homemade Italian-style mac and cheese which is the mac and cheese I first fell in love with.

Why is it so popular?

Can you eat mac and cheese and not have it bring a smile to your face?  The satisfying combination of pasta in a rich and creamy cheese sauce is so comforting, decadent, and nostalgic, it’s hard not to love it.

You already own Homeroom, a restaurant in Oakland, California dedicated to macaroni and cheese, why do a cookbook?

We had both always been really into food and food writing, and it was a dream of both of ours to write a cookbook.  So when an editor at Ten Speed Press called us and said that they were interested in having us write a Homeroom cookbook, it was almost too good to be true.  We also think that although there are a few mac and cheese cookbooks already out there, that ours is really special because we give you all the details on the basics, and you can riff on it 100 different ways at home.  We’ve also served more mac and cheese than any other restaurant in the world (we’re pretty sure), so we’ve got some really helpful techniques and great recipes we thought would be fun to share.

What’s the secret to good mac and cheese?

A silky cream sauce and using good cheeses.

How did you decide on which recipes to put in the cookbook?

At Homeroom we have about 12 macs on our menu at any given time, but we have dozens of recipes we are always waiting to put into the rotation either as a seasonal special or to replace something on the menu.  So luckily the book pretty much wrote itself, since we had most of our recipes already.  There are some recipes though that we developed specifically for the cookbook based on frequent requests we’ve had from customers (i.e. the mac cakes) that were difficult for us to implement at Homeroom for various reasons, but were perfect to round out the cookbook.

Why did you decide to include sides and desserts in it?

Although Homeroom is a mac and cheese restaurant, we pride ourselves on really making mac and cheese a meal with delicious side dishes, homemade desserts, and beer and wine pairings.  We wanted the cookbook to convey the same idea– that mac can be amazing on its own but that it can also be the centerpiece to a fabulous dinner.

What are your favorites?

We really do love them all, but if we had to pick favorites we’d go for the classic cheddar (for nostalgia) or the Dungeness crab mac (if we’re feeling fancy).

What’s the best mac and cheese recipe for a guy to make for:

– A Date: The Truffle Mac or Dungeness Crab Mac — because they are a little fancier and will make a lady feel special.

– His Family: The Gilroy Garlic Mac —It is far and away our best seller and a huge crowd pleaser for all ages.

– His Guy Friends- The Jalapeno Popper or Chili Mac — We came up with them for a Super Bowl party to feature our favorite Super Bowl party ingredients and these macs definitely have “guys night” written all over them.

The Mac + Cheese Cookbook: 50 Simple Recipes From Homeroom, America’s Favorite Mac and Cheese Restaurant, $10.61 at amazon.com.