I’m having a Festivus party this weekend.
I need to throw out my distractingly festive tree and those materialistic lights.
I also need to confront the problem that is my linen/coat closet. A shelf gave way under the weight of my snowboard boots (which I apparently will use again exactly NEVER) and a bunch of other junkity junk junk. Or maybe I’ll just wait for a Festivus Miracle. Those don’t happen if everything is perfect and your apartment is decidedly not broken. The more you know!
I need to think of some good grievances to air. I take this seriously, and lest I forget, they will have to stew for a whole another year. Not good. I need thinking food…
Like macaroni and cheese. Grown-up, interesting macaroni and cheese. A mountain of cheese is a must. With something green that decidedly isn’t there to make the situation healthier (because COME ON), but more sophisticated and exciting. Cumin seeds on top? On top of a mountain of Dutch cheeses, that is? Don’t mind if I do.
By something green (imagine me saying it in a suspicious you-ain’t-from-around-here voice), I mean Swiss chard. It gets cooked, and chopped, and then it waits its turn. There’s lots we have to do.
Like grate cheese. Did I mention there’s lots of cheese?
We have to saute some onion and garlic in butter.
Then, flour gets in on this. It gets cooked in fat, which isn’t a bad way to go at all if you ask me.
Milk! We pour in some milk. As much or as little fat as you want. I used 1%, because I’m a rich banker (nope).
We cook the milk, butter, onion, garlic and flour until the flour starts to work its magic and thicken things up. Constant whisking is highly recommended. Then, we throw in cooked (al dente) macaroni.
Hey, chard! Thanks for waiting. You get to play now. There’s layering to be done: first, the macaroni mixture we just made, followed by extra cheese and chard and then, the rest of the macaroni. We’re not quite done, though.
Crumb topping. This means bread crumbs, panko crumbs, cumin seeds, melted butter, and (yup) more cheese.
Then, it goes into the oven to melt and bubble until it earns totally-out-of-this-world status. My favorite Festivus Miracle of all might be melted cheese. You call it science, but I think it’s magic.
Edam and Gouda Macaroni and Cheese with Swiss Chard
(adapted from Epicurious)
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, divided
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup flour
3 cups milk (I’ve used 1% and 2%, both with good results)
2 cups (packed) grated Gouda cheese, plus 1/2 cup finely grated (about 10 ounces total) for the topping
2 cups (packed) coarsely grated Edam cheese, divided
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (to taste)
A fresh grating of nutmeg, about 1/8 teaspoon
1 bunch (about 1/2 pounds) Swiss chard, stems and tough center ribs mostly removed
12 ounces elbow macaroni
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
1 teaspoon cumin seeds (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter a 13×9 casserole dish. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the chard leaves until wilted and tender, about a minute. Don’t discard the water; remove the chard from the pot with tongs or a slotted spoon. Squeeze water from chard, chop and set aside. Return the water to boil and add macaroni; cook until tender but still al dente, stirring occasionally. Drain and set aside.
In a large pot over medium heat, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter and add onion. Saute until soft and translucent for about 5 minutes, then add the garlic and flour. Stir constantly for about a minute while the flour gets incorporated into the fat and cooked. Whisk in the milk and keep cooking, whisking often, until mixture thickens and begins to boil–roughly 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in 2 cups of the Gouda and 1 cup Edam. Keep stirring until the cheeses are melted and incorporated, then mix in cayenne and nutmeg. Season mixture with salt and pepper and stir cooked macaroni into warm cheese sauce.
Pour half of the macaroni into prepared baking dish, then top with 1 cup Edam cheese, followed by all of the cooked chard. Top with remaining macaroni mixture.
To make the crumb topping, melt remaining 3 tablespoons of butter. Mix bread crumbs, butter and 1/2 cup finely grated Gouda. Sprinkle crumb mixture over mac and cheese, followed by the cumin seeds over, if using.
Bake until crumb topping is golden and edges are bubbling, about 40=50 minutes. (You may need to cover the dish with foil if the topping browns too quickly.) Let cool for a few minutes before serving.