You’ll never go back to ordinary macaroni cheese after making this version, oozing with a deeply cheesy flavor and crowned with a crisp crust
I never really understood the appeal of macaroni cheese, a stodgy dish tasting of pasta and not much else, until I went to a neighbor’s fireworks display last year. There, Josh cooked something so cheesy, so oozing with rich flavors and so irresistible with its delectably crisp top, that I was sunk: I had one helping after another.
Here is my version, with a handful of greens to fight the January cold.
Josh’s macaroni cheese with kale and crisp breadcrumbs
Prep 15 min
Cook 1 hr 15 min
200g kale, stems removed and discarded, shredded
2 banana shallots, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
Leaves from a few sprigs thyme
60g plain flour
800ml-900ml whole milk
Salt and pepper
Several generous gratings nutmeg, to taste
140g smoked streaky bacon (optional)
125g blue cheese, such as Stichelton or Oxford Blue
125g Lincolnshire Poacher or a mature cheddar
For the breadcrumbs
120g dried breadcrumbs
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente, adding the kale for the final two minutes of cooking. Drain and run under cold water for a minute, to cool and refresh.
Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan)/gas 4. Melt 50g butter in a medium pan over a medium-low heat and sweat the shallots, garlic and thyme for about eight minutes, until soft and fragrant.
Add the flour, turn the heat to medium and cook for three to four minutes, until a pale toast colour.
Slowly pour in the milk, bit by bit, stirring furiously with a wooden spoon between each addition, and making sure all the milk has been incorporated each time before adding more. This will ensure you avoid lumps.
Once all the milk has been incorporated, season generously with salt, pepper and nutmeg, and let the sauce bubble for five minutes, to thicken.
Melt half the remaining butter in a frying pan and fry the bacon until crisp; set aside. Add the rest of the butter to the pan, along with the breadcrumbs and garlic, season, then cook for five minutes, stirring, until the crumbs are browning and turning crisp.
Stir the three cheeses into the sauce. Chop the bacon, add to the pasta, then stir in three-quarters of the cheese sauce.
Pour into a large baking dish, top with the rest of the sauce and the breadcrumbs, and bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden and bubbling. Eat at once with a crisp salad; a few pink, bitter leaves thrown in would look amazing.
And for the rest of the week
Leftover blue cheese is great crumbled into a pear and chicory salad. Otherwise, stir any combination of the leftover cheeses into a mix of flaked, smoked mackerel, creme fraiche and spring onions to fill baked jacket potatoes.
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