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Growing up a little kid I couldn’t wait for the macaroni and cheese to hit the Thanksgiving table. It was one of my most favorite sides to add to my plate. Now, yes I know the turkey is predominantly the show stopper of the Thanksgiving table but let’s keep it real here…when the macaroni and cheese is presented you know it’s finally time to eat! And it’s the first thing I’m putting on my plate! Ok…it goes like this. Every year it’s macaroni and cheese on the plate (first), greens (second), green beans (third), roasted brussels sprouts (fourth) and mashed potatoes (fifth), then the entire plate is drizzled with gravy! Oh boy! Sorry if the turkey is overrated to me! LOL!
It’s something about that ooey-gooey, creamy, hot and cheesy side dish that makes Thanksgiving complete. My Nana who was from the West Indies made a “mean” baked macaroni and cheese casserole every holiday season. It had the density of the baked Jewish noodle dish “Noodle Kugel” (which I also love) with the creaminess of blended cheeses, milk and butter. Once you cut into it the casserole, the cheese would string and melt but still bind together from the egg, milk and butter mixture.
In my many years as a chef I’ve prepared macaroni and cheese a number of different ways. From a decadent White Truffle Macaroni and Cheese for Mary J. Blige to a Vegan Gluten-Free Macaroni and Cheese using a creamy cashew cheese sauce, gluten free pasta and wild mushrooms for the family of the CEO of America’s premier Black owned bank, One United Bank. Nonetheless and no matter how I’m asked to create or prepare it, it’s always a creative challenge that I’m up for.
The recipe below brings me back to the little girl and me readily awaiting my Nana to bring the showstopper to the table. Her delicious baked macaroni and cheese. So I’m paying homage to her recipe with my twist using a variety of decadent cheeses, a classic french cheese sauce, nutmeg and a parmesan crust.
1 Lb. Large Elbow Macaroni4 Cups Milk3 Eggs4 Tbs. Unsalted Butter + 6 Tbs.2 Tbs Flour1 tsp. Nutmeg, Ground1 cup, Smoked Gouda Cheese, Shredded2 cups, Aged White Cheddar Cheese, Sharp1 cup, Gruyere Cheese, Shredded1 cup Mild Cheddar Cheese, Shredded1/2 cup Seasoned Bread Crumbs1/3 cup Parmesan ReggianoSalt & Pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In the meantime, over high heat bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta for 10 minute. Until al dente. Drain and set to the side.
In a small saucepan add the butter and melt. Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring constantly until it forms into a paste. Cook until it slightly bubbles a bit, but not browned, about 1-2 minutes. Lower the heat and add the milk, continuing to whisk. Add the nutmeg, salt and pepper. Stir in the gruyere the last 2 minutes of cooking and continue too whisk until thickened and slightly bubbly.
In a large mixing bowl add the macaroni and melted cheese sauce and mix together with a wooden spoon. Scrape into a 3 quart baking dish working in batches. Layer a 1/3 of the macaroni and cheese and sprinkle with gouda, mild cheddar, white aged cheddar and 2 tablespoons butter, and continue to layer the macaroni mixture with the 3 different cheeses and butter. Sprinkle the top layer with any remaining cheese and the parmesan reggiano and breadcrumbs.
In a small bowl scramble the eggs and pour over the top of the macaroni and cheese. Cover with foil and bake in the oven covered for 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Remove from the oven and remove the foil. Adjust the oven setting to broil and place the baking dish back in the oven under the broiler for 2-3 minutes and broil until the top is golden brown.
Be careful not to burn as this process cooks quick! Remove and let set for 1-2 minutes. Serve.
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