By Julie Huss
---- — LONDONDERRY — Debbie Curtain knows her macaroni and cheese.
It’s time to put the Londonderry woman’s recipe to the test this month as part of the annual “New Hampshire’s Own Macaroni and Cheese Bake Off,” hosted by the Granite State Dairy Promotion.
Cooks from all over the state will bring their prized macaroni dish to the Holiday Inn in Concord on Jan. 19 to be judged by a panel of experts and those attending the event.
Curtain will enter her original recipe, featuring New Hampshire ingredients — and a few secret twists and turns she can’t reveal.
She has entered twice before.
Curtain will again wear her grandmother’s prized apron for good luck and will take a sister along for moral support in the kitchen.
In past years, more than 60 cooks have appeared with potential winning casseroles.
“I have so many secret ingredients,” Curtain said.
There are secrets she won’t divulge, but she will say her recipe begins with the basics, using only quality New Hampshire items like creams and cheeses.
“Everyone has their own personal likes with macaroni and cheese,” she said.
Individual takes on the classic casserole might add a bit of lobster or crab to the mix. Last year’s winner, Neelima Gogumalla of Windham, emerged as the top chef with her unqiue “Creamy Crab with Swiss and Goat Cheese” offering.
Curtain wants to make her entry interesting.
“I don’t watch a lot of the cooking shows, but I always felt like this was something like ‘Cupcake Wars’ and how creative can you get with a cupcake?” she said. “That’s always been in the back of my mind.”
Curtain calls her macaroni and cheese something of a “layered look,” with a little bit of this and a little bit of that.
“You have to experiment,” she said. “You have to try things, play outside the box.”
Wearing Grandma’s apron will help, too.
“I’m wearing the apron again,” Curtain said. “It’s our good luck charm.”
Curtain said people showing up at the event will pay $10 to get in, then they can try the macaroni-and-cheese dishes and vote for their favorites.
Attending the cooking event will also do great things for the state’s farmers.
“This is all about supporting them,” she said.
The winner of the contest has his or her macaroni-and-cheese recipe featured on the dinner menu at Cotton Restaurant in Manchester.