I find this all very interesting because macaroni and cheese is one of my favorite comfort foods. The best I've ever had (sorry, Mom) is the macaroni and cheese served at the Frankenmuth Brewery in Frankenmuth, Michigan. From their menu: "Our house recipe four-cheese blend atop bowtie noodles sprinkled with bread crumbs, butter, parmesan and parsley." It's truly cheesy heaven on a plate, with just the right amount of crispiness on top.
When I was a kid, my mom made really great macaroni and cheese for dinner every once in a while. She would put it in the oven to brown the top a little bit, but she never put any sort of bread crumbs or cracker crumbs on to make a crunchy crust. That's probably why I prefer mac and cheese without too much crunch added. In my mind, it supposed to be a primarily creamy dish.
As much as I like to make dishes from scratch, I've never found a really great recipe for macaroni and cheese other than my mom's. I've tried dozens of them, but they always seem to be too dry and grainy or the cheese separates or the taste is just not quite what I'm looking for. The addition of mustard doesn't do much for me, either. A few online friends recommended I try one that contains cottage cheese, but that sounds awfully lumpy to me. For me, the perfect macaroni and cheese should have a sharp/tangy sauce so smooth and creamy that it is almost (but not quite) runny. It should not clump together as you spoon it out of the serving dish. The top can have a lightly browned, thin bit of crisp coating, but it shouldn't have a thick crust.
How about you? What is your perfect mac and cheese? Do you make it from scratch or you do you covet the blue box?