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Mac and Many Cheeses with Broccoli and Ham

November 7, 2010

Mac and Many Cheeses with Broccoli and Ham

Brrr!! It’s cold out! I spent a couple of hours this morning raking some leaves, and have been sitting chilled inside the house even though the heat is on. It must be November. October was quite the month, with weddings, funerals, trips, and just general non-stop activity. This is our first weekend home in three, and our collected flights and road trips this past month easy cruise into the double digits. Luckliy we had a close friend staying at our house most of the time, which was very helpful with handling, among the house in general, this guy:

At least, among all the madness, we were in a fun place!

Mickey, man!

During one of the in-between weeks I had a tasty Mac and Cheese at Deep Ellum in a tiny cast iron pan with duck confit, and crispy breadcrumbs on top. It inspired me to make a mac and cheese at home. I’ve made various recipes before, but never one for the blog, so I felt it was time! We had a *lot* of spare cheese in the fridge (pepper jack, gruyere, a bagged mexican blend, a bagged italian blend, some parmesan), so this was really a “kitchen sink” selection, but really any mix of good melty cheeses will do fine. I also decided to use buttermilk to add a little sourness and extra creaminess without much extra fat, but you will do just fine with all regular milk. Please enjoy.

Mac and Many Cheeses with Broccoli and Ham (Serves 8)

  • 1 lb. small shell pasta
  • 1 8 oz. ham steak, trimmed of all visible fat and cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 2 cups broccoli florets and chopped stems (about 3 heads)
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped finely
  • 1 large clove or 2 small cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups buttermilk and/or milk (I used 2:1 buttermilk), scalded and kept warm
  • 2 cups assorted cheeses, shredded finely plus 2 tbsp. grated Parmesan, divided
  • 3 tbsp. plus 1 tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
  • 3 tbsp. flour
  • 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbsp. ground mustard
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and grease a 9×13″ glass baking dish.
  2. Cook pasta in very salty water according to box directions, short 2 minutes. When noodles are just soft but still have a bite, add broccoli to pot and stir around for 15 seconds. Pour into colander, rinse with cold water until everything is completely cool to the touch and drain completely. Set aside.
  3. Place a large pot (the same one, if you’d like — that’s what I did) over low-medium heat and add the 3 tbsp. butter. Once the butter melts and the foam subsides, add the onion and a big pinch of salt. Cook for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft and just starting to show a hint of brown, then add the garlic and cook for another minute, stirring constantly.
  4. Combine the mustard and cayenne with the flour and scatter around the pan. Leave it alone for 1 minute, then whisk everything together and cook for a few minutes until flour mixture turns golden brown. Gradually whisk in the warm milk.
  5. Whisking regularly, turn the heat up to medium-high and bring the milk mixture to a boil. Once mixture boils, turn the heat to low and switch to a wooden spoon. Working in very small handfuls, add a bit of the cheese to the sauce at a time and keep stirring as the cheese melts, until all of the cheese is in. Taste sauce and season with salt and pepper.
  6. Turn the heat off, and add back in the shell pasta, broccoli, and ham and stir to combine thoroughly. Turn mixture out into baking dish.
  7. Melt remaining 1 tbsp butter and combine with panko breadcrumbs. Distribute breadcrumbs over baking dish, add reserved Parmesan, and optionally top with some paprika. Bake for about 30 minutes or until breadcrumbs are lightly browned.
  8. Let cool for 10 minutes and serve with a side salad.
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