Let me first say that this macaroni and cheese is so good, but it is not for the faint of heart as far as dairy goes. I couldn’t even finish my portion, as it was so rich and cheesy. But it is delicious! If you’re a macaroni and cheese lover, this version is definitely worth a try. Next time I might see how I can cinch the belt of this recipe and give it a makeover to lighten it up.
from: The Essential New York Times Cook Book
serves: 6 as a main course
½ pound macaroni
¾ pound sliced cooked ham (½” thick)
1/3 pound mushrooms, (having made this, I would use more ½ a lb. or so)
½ pound sharp cheddar cheese
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
freshly ground black pepper
½ cup finely chopped onion
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or more to taste
1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add salt to taste. Add the macaroni and cook for 9 to 10 minutes or until al dente. Drain and return to the pot.
Meanwhile, cut the ham into cubes and slice the mushrooms. Set aside.
Cut the cheddar into slices about ¼ inch thick. Stack the slices and cut them into ¼ inch wide strips. Cut the strips into ¼ inch cubes.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour, stirring with a wire whisk, and cook for about a minute, then add the milk, whisking rapidly. Let simmer for a few minutes until thickened, and add the nutmeg, cheddar cheese, and salt and black pepper o taste, whisking until smooth. Remove from the heat.
Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter in a skillet. Add the onion and mushrooms and cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are wilted, 5-7 minutes. Add the ham and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute. Add the cheese sauce, cayenne, and cream and cook, stirring for 1 to 2 minutes. Taste, adding more cayenne if needed.
Add the macaroni to the sauce and mix well. Transfer to a buttered 3 quart baking dish. Sprinkle the top with Parmesan cheese, and bake for 10 minutes.
Turn the broiler to high. Brown the macaroni and cheese under the broiler until the top is nicely browned, 2 to 3 minutes.