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Welcome to Mad Men Week! This week, I’m celebrating the April 7 return of Mad Men with recipes inspired by the show and its (rumored) season premiere setting: Hawaii.  

OK, I know, you’ve tried macaroni salad a thousand times at church potlucks, baby showers and picnics, and it’s always disappointing. Too sweet. Too bland. Too runny. Too blah.

Give it one more chance. 

This Hawaiian Macaroni Salad is my new favorite side. You cook the pasta twice as long so it doesn’t sit in the dressing; it absorbs it. First, you toss it with cider vinegar for bite. Then, you stir in the dressing, let it cool, and add the scallions, grated carrot and chopped celery, as well as some extra milk and mayonnaise. So, it’s creamy and crunchy, but every bite also has that vinegar tang.

It’s not boring. It’s the kind of thing you take an extra one, two or three bites of before you put it back in the fridge. The perfect side for picnics and cookouts, especially until the good corn starts coming in.

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

Slightly adapted from “Cook’s Country” (June/July 2009)

Serves 8 to 10

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  •  Salt and pepper
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 4 scallions, sliced thin
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and grated
  • 1 celery rib, chopped fine
  1. To Make the Dressing: Whisk together 1 1/2 cups milk, 1 cup mayonnaise, brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 2 teaspoons pepper. Refrigerate. 
  2. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta and cook until very soft, about 15 minutes. Drain pasta and return to pot.
  3. Add vinegar to the pasta, and toss until absorbed. Transfer to bowl. Cool the pasta for 10 minutes. (This will keep the vinegar from curdling the dressing.)
  4. Stir in the dressing until pasta is well coated. Cool completely.
  5. Add scallions, carrot, celery, remaining milk, and remaining mayonnaise to pot with pasta mixture; stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to serving bowl and refrigerate, covered, for at least 1 hour or up to 2 days. Serve.