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Mac 'n' cheese

Time 1 hour
Yields Serves 10
Mac 'n' cheese
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)
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As I began to accept the mixed bag of realities that constitutes adulthood, I realized that when it comes to birthday parties, I could do what I please.

And what pleases me — on any given Tuesday, not just once a year — is fried chicken. And I realized that one day a year I could let loose and try to get as close to all the fried chicken (not just one regional or cultural style) as possible. And that is how Jenn’s Fried Chicken party, known in my inner circle as JFC — started.

The idea is simple and less demanding than when your friend wants you to go to n/naka with her: Collect as much fried chicken from as many restaurants as possible under one roof, then spend the night devouring it. Instead of presents, I ask for chicken: Everyone who attends the party is responsible for bringing some from somewhere.

I supply the obligatory rest: homemade biscuits, macaroni and cheese, a green salad as a reprieve to all the fat, whatever pie I’m currently obsessed with, and booze (normally copious amounts of bubbly, some rosé and a new cocktail every year).

For the mac and cheese, I make Ina Garten’s basic recipe super extra by upping the amount of cheese and adding smoked Gouda and pickled jalapeños to the topping.

From the story: Entertaining: How to throw a fried chicken party

1

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook according to the directions on the package. Drain.

2

Place the milk in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat to warm; be careful to watch that the milk does not come to a boil.

3

In a large pot, melt 6 tablespoons of butter over low heat, then whisk in the flour. Cook over low heat until the mixture comes together to form a roux, about two minutes. Whisk in the hot milkand cook, stirring, until the mixture thickens, about two minutes. Stir in the Gruyère, 1 1/2 cups cheddar and 1 cup of the Gouda cheese. Remove the pot from heat and stir in the nutmeg, black pepper and salt to taste. Add the macaroni and stir. Pour the mixture into a 9- by 13-inch baking dish.

4

Melt the remaining 5 tablespoons of butter. In a bowl, stir together the butter, bread crumbs, remaining cheddar and Gouda. Sprinkle the mixture over the top of the baking dish. Bake until the top is golden brown and the macaroni and cheese is bubbly, about 35 minutes. About 5 minutes before the dish is finished, sprinkle over the chopped jalapeños.

5

Bake until the top is golden brown and the macaroni and cheese is bubbly, about 35 minutes. Then remove and cool slightly before serving.

Adapted from a recipe from Ina Garten.