Friday, March 21, 2014

Kickin' Mac N Cheese Up a Notch

Wow, it's been a doozy of a week. From a hit and run accident to a sick kid with strep throat. But, the cooking, eating, and cleaning goes on... Do you guys like kale? I do. My kids do, if it's broiled to a crisp with lots of salt on top. I've been ordering it nearly every week from our Food Buying Club and experimenting a little bit.

Last week, I made this Kale Mac N Cheese and I really loved it. The kids ate around the kale and the grownups put a little spice on top (hello, Cholula). The kale was nicely crisp on the top and the combination of the cheeses hit the spot.

If you're making this for the kids, call it Mac N Cheese, and if you're making it for a dinner party call it by it's original name, Pasta Gratin with Kale. Fancy, right?

Kale Mac N Cheese
aka Sheet Pan Pasta Gratin with Kale from Alexandra Cooks

3/4 pound pasta, penne or campanelle or anything you like
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk (2% or whole)
2 cups water
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 bunch or about 8 oz kale or Swiss chard, stems removed
1 1/2 cups (4 ounces) Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
1 cup fontina or fresh mozzarella, diced into small cubes (I used fontina)

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a tablespoon of kosher salt. Boil pasta for 2 minutes less than the box's suggested al dente time. (For example, my campanelle box said 'al dente perfection' in 10 to 11 minutes. I boiled mine for 8.) Drain. Do not rinse. Set aside.

Meanwhile, melt 4 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat in a medium saucepan. Add flour, whisking constantly for about a minute. Add milk and water, whisking to remove any of the flour-butter mixture from bottom of pan. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and gently simmer. Add 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt and pepper to taste. Simmer until mixture begins to thicken, about 20 minutes. Note: the mixture will not get super thick, but it will coat the back of a spoon, and if you run your finger through the coating, the trail should stay. Remove from the heat.

Meanwhile, chop the kale or chard into small pieces. In a large mixing bowl, toss pasta with bechamel and grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Fold in chopped kale.

Line a jelly roll pan (I used my 9x12 Le Creuset baker) with a sheet of parchment paper. Spread macaroni mixture over top. Distribute mozzarella or fontina cubes over top.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, checking after 10 minutes or so. (Note: If it looks too brown after 10-15 minutes, reduce oven to 400ºF for the remainder of the cooking time.) The gratin should be bubbling and golden at the edges. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

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