Monday, March 28, 2011

Greens and bacon mac & cheese

I'm really not even going to try to convince you all that this is a healthy mac and cheese. Yes, it has tons of dark leafy greens baked in there...but it's also all bacony and cheesey. My mom bought them at the farmers market here and then forgot to bring them back home with her to Wisconsin. So there they were in my fridge, staring at me--an enormous pile of greens. It was a healthy mix--some chards, some turnip greens, kale, plus some who knows what. After trimming and cutting into chiffonade, it looks slightly more manageable.I then cut about 1/2 pound of bacon into 1" chunks and cooked until browned. And removed to a plate to add back in later. Turn the heat to medium in the big bacony pot, and add in all the greens...Saute them until they soften up. They'll wilt right away,but if you have some heartier greens in there (like the kale) it will take about 3-5 minutes of cooking for them to get soft enough. If you have just chard they'll be done a bit faster since that's a less tough green. Once your greens are cooked, scoop them into a wire colander and kind of press them with a spoon to get them to drain out some liquid. The idea it to get them as dry as possible so you don't add soggy vegetables to your nice creamy mac and cheese. Set the greens aside and rinse out your pot.Melt 1/2 stick of butter (4 tablespoons) over medium-low heat and add in 1/2 minced onion to saute until the onion is soft--about 3-5 minutes. Measure out 3 tablespoons flour...And sprinkle it into your butter-onion mixture.Get a whisk and move it around--it will turn into a paste. You're making a light roux for the thickening base of your cheese sauce.Heat up (but don't boil!) 1 1/2 cups of milk...Turn down the heat to as low as possible and gradually add the milk to your roux, whisking it in a bit at a time. It will get really thick but by the time you add all the milk, it should be not at all pasty. Whisk until smooth and add in salt and pepper.Get 1/2 cup of dry white wine...And whisk it into the sauce. It should be the perfect consistency at this point.Now here's the cheesy part! I had a bunch of of cheese odds-n-ends hanging out in my fridge--orphan cheeses, if you will. This is a great way to use up lots of little bits in one big melty goo. I had some gouda, some Amadeus cheese (I don't know much of anything about it, it's from Austria and tastes yummy and is presumably named after Mozart), and some pepper jack, although I don't think I ended up needing to use that last one. Shred it all up--you need about 1 1/2 cups total.And whisk it in! Shred it up. Whisk it in. Lock it down. And add a couple dashes of hot sauce. While the cheese sauce is cooking, boil about 3/4 pound (so, almost, but not all of 1 package) of macaroni. Drain it, and add in to the finished sauce. After you've incorporated the macaroni, add in your patiently waiting greens...And the even more patiently waiting bacon... And transfer the whole shebang to a baking dish.I topped mine with a handful of bread crumbs and a bit more shredded cheese--optional, but it does add a nice crunch. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes--if you want to you can broil it at the very end for just a few seconds to get a nice crisp top.And yes, it is very very good. Please enjoy!

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