Macaroni and Cheese with Ham & Mushrooms

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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

salt
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

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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.

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Turn the broiler to high. Brown the macaroni and cheese under the broiler until the top is nicely browned, 2 to 3 minutes.

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