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Does it seem like everyone is trying to do something different, or quirky, or artisanal, or “maker” with mac and cheese? It’s on menus from dive bars to foam boutiques, paired with PBRs and boldly-priced malbecs. Like pizza, it’s basic enough to accommodate experimentation but familiar and unintimidating to most of the public. So the usual trend-marking add-ins start showing up: sriracha, lobster, truffles, sweet potatoes, as well some new ones including — and I provide this link to show I am absolutely not making this up — white chocolate. I’m sure someone has made it with cold brew coffee or kambucha, I just don’t have the time to google it right now. And then there are people who have the chutzpah to tell you to make the boxed version but add your own “Italian flavored” breadcrumbs and shamelessly proffer it as a “recipe.”
Molly’s has melty, bubbly gruyere, onions cooked within an inch of their lives,and toasted panko — It’s like French onion soup, without the pesky soup. It’s deeply delicious and intensely satisfying. It’s the kind of dish that makes people jump up to help clear plates because they know that will give them license and opportunity to sneak a few more bites in the relative privacy of the kitchen, because God knows they can’t actually eat a third serving in plain sight. Sometimes that person is me. And it’s pretty sad behavior when I’m eating by myself.
Gruyere Mac and Cheese with Caramelized Onions, from Molly on the Range by Molly Yeh
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- kosher salt
- 8 oz. medium shells
- 1/4 cup flour
- 2-1/2 cups whole milk
- 6 oz. gruyere cheese, shredded
- 4 oz. swiss cheese, shredded
- 2 oz. parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- black pepper
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease an 8"x 8" baking dish.
- In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and caramelized, about 40 minutes.
- Cook the pasta according to the package directions reducing the cooking time by 1 minute. Drain and set aside.
- In a large pot, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat. Add the flour, whisking until combined, then cook for 1 minute. Add half the milk, whisking continuously until thickened, about 5 minutes [mine thickened almost instantly], and then repeat with the other half of the milk. Add the gruyere and swiss and all but 2 tablespoons of the parmesan and stir until the cheeses melt. Stir in the paprika, cayenne, nutmeg, mustard, and black pepper and salt to taste. Stir in the pasta and onions.
- Transfer the mixture to the baking dish and top with the panko, a pinch of salt, a few turns of pepper, and the reserved parmesan and bake until the top is browned, about 25 minutes. Cool
- for 5 minutes and enjoy.
- NOTE: In a pinch, you can skip the baking step. Simply cook the pasta fully before stirring it into the cheese sauce, then serve immediately topped with panko and parmesan.
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