By Stephanie Stiavetti

This dish is a Christmas game-changer on so many levels: it’s simple but elegant, with a gorgeous array of textures that will tempt even the most sullen Scrooge. And since you can make it a day ahead with not a whole lot of work, consider this my early gift to you. These cheeses are available pretty much everywhere, though you can use all Gruyére if you want, or all Emmentaler. You could swap out cheddar, Gouda, Fontina, Havarti, plain Swiss cheese, or Monterey Jack. In other words, use whatever cheeses you like in this dish, as long as they’re melty and decadent!

 

Gruyère and Emmentaler Macaroni with Ham and Cubed Sourdough

From Melt: the Art of Macaroni and Cheese

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Serves 4

10 ounces elbow macaroni

2 cups whole milk

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

½ teaspoon sea salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

10 ounces Gruyère, shredded

8 ounces Emmentaler, shredded

8 ounces Black Forest ham, cut into ½-inch cubes

2 cups sourdough bread cubes, each about ½ inch square, crust on

Gruyère, named after the Swiss district of Gruyère , is a lovely, hard cow’s milk cheese known the world over for its seductively melty personality. Luscious and smooth, Gruyère is often paired with Emmentaler to make what can only be described as a superlative fondue.

With Gruyère and Emmentaler intertwined in a heady embrace, we toss Black Forest ham into the mix, making for a sultry ménage à trois of flavor and texture. Topped with chunky cubed sourdough for crunch, this dish is more than delicious—it’s sinful.

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter an 8-by-8-inch baking dish.

2. Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain through a colander and set aside.

3. To prepare the mornay sauce, heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. As soon as the milk starts to steam and tiny bubbles form around the edges of the pan, turn off the heat. Place the butter in a medium saucepan and melt over medium flame. Add the flour and stir with a flat-edged wooden paddle — just until the roux begins to take on a light brown color — scraping the bottom to prevent burning, about 3 minutes. Slowly add the milk and stir constantly until the sauce thickens enough to evenly coat the back of a spoon — a finger drawn along the back of the spoon should leave a clear swath. Remove from heat and stir in salt and pepper. Add mustard and cheese to sauce, stirring until completely melted.

4. Pour pasta into greased baking dish and toss with ham. Pour the cheese sauce over the top of the pasta and stir gently to incorporate into the ham and noodles. Top liberally with bread cubes, slide into the oven, and bake for 30 minutes. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

Alternative cheeses:

Any reputable Gruyère and Emmentaler will go well in this recipe. Ask your local cheesemonger.

Wine pairings:

Viognier, Altesse, Roussanne, Pinot Noir, dry rosé

Additional pairings for the cheese:

toasted walnuts, bacon, crusty bread

 

Written by Stephanie Stiavetti

Stephanie Stiavetti is a freelance food writer living in the San Francisco Bay Area. She writes for KQEDNPR, the Huffington Post, and also dabbles in independent radio and video production. She spends a ridiculous amount of time in the kitchen, recording her adventures at TheCulinaryLife.com.

Her first cookbook, Melt: the Art of Macaroni and Cheese with coauthor Garrett McCord, is due out in 2013 on Little, Brown, Co.

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