Creamy-Crunchy Macaroni, Ham and Cheese

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Recipe by Raquel Grinnell

From "Top Chef" contestant Jennifer Carroll, of 10 Arts in Philadelphia (an Eric Ripert restaurant, for all the foodies out there :) Simply the most outstanding mac and cheese EVER. Bar none.

Ingredients Nutrition

  • 2 cups cooked elbow macaroni, al dente
  • 1 cup gruyere cheese, grated
  • 1 cup ground ham (preferably Boar's Head, if you do not have a grinder, chop ham to a fine dice)
  • 1 12 cups , bechamel (see below)
  • milk, as needed
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs, sourdough (See note)
  • fine sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • For the Bechamel

  • 14 cup unsalted butter
  • 14 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
  • fine sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Make a white roux by melting the butter and adding flour. Gradually add the milk to the pan, whisking away any lumps. Bring the sauce to a full boil; reduce to a simmer, stirring frequently. Simmer until sauce is smooth and flour is cooked out (about 20 minutes). Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
  3. Warm the béchamel. Add half of the Gruyère. Remove immediately from the heat. The cheese should just lightly melt into the béchamel.
  4. Add the cooked macaroni and ham to the béchamel cheese mixture. The consistency should be fairly loose but not soupy. Add milk if needed to loosen. Season to taste with fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
  5. Place mixture in a greased casserole. Top with the rest of the Gruyère cheese and the bread crumbs.
  6. Place in oven until the cheese is bubbly and crisp (about 4 to 6 minutes). Do not overcook. It should still be quite moist. Serve immediately.
  7. Note: For the bread crumbs, use day-old sourdough bread slices and let them dry out. Grind in processor or crush in a zippered bag until super-fine. Pass through a fine-mesh tami (sieve) so the bread crumbs are like dust.

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