Gourmet Mac 'N Cheese with Ham
Note: This is a dryer mac 'n cheese - it resembles a good Italian pasta rather than a box of Kraft mac 'n cheese. If you want it to be more creamy, then add more milk and cheese.
4 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
3 slices country white bread, torn into pieces
3 cups whole milk
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp salt
Fresh ground pepper
1/8 - 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (depends on how much of a bite you want)
2 heaping cups of sharp white cheddar, grated
1 heaping cup gruyere, finely grated
1 lb large (or small) elbow macaroni pasta
1 cup cooked ham, chopped into 1/2-inch bits
2 cups frozen broccoli florets (or about 1 lb asparagus spears, cleaned, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 3 1/2-quart casserole dish with cooking spray.
Melt 1 tbsp of butter. Place torn bread pieces into a mini-food processor and process until you reach a uniform, bread crumb consistency. Toss bread crumbs with tbsp of butter and set aside. (Note: If you don't want to use a food processor, you can simply tear your bread pieces into small pieces)
In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, warm the milk. In a large pan (you will be combining everything in this pan so make sure it's large enough) over medium heat, melt the remaining butter. Whisk in flour until combined. Add warm milk, about 1 cup of it at a time, constantly whisking to prevent lumps. Cook for about 12 minutes until mixture has thickened and is bubbling. Make sure to whisk frequently.
While sauce is cooking, heat 1 cup water in a small saucepan until it reaches a boil (if using asparagus, omit this step). Add the frozen broccoli and steam with the lid on for about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat, drain and run under cold water. Chop the florets into pieces (individual florets).
Remove the sauce from the heat and whisk in salt, cayenne and half of the cheddar and gruyere. Season with pepper.
Heat a medium pot of water over medium-high heat. Salt the water right before it begins to boil. When water reaches a boil, add macaroni and cook for approx. 4-6 minutes, until just beginning to soften. Remove from water and transfer to cheese sauce mixture and combine with a wooden spoon. Stir in ham bits and broccoli/asparagus pieces. Pour macaroni into casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese, breadcrumbs and fresh pepper. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes.
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Comments on this recipe
Just tried this recipe and OH. MAH. GAH! Amazing! We used fresh house-smoked ham from a local Swedish butcher and the entire recipe came together amazingly. My boyfriend and I, shameless foodies, are always on the prowl for exceptional recipes. We wouldn't tweak a thing in this. Kudos!