I don’t know about you but just turning on the news makes me want to crawl under the bed. I couldn’t think of a better time to share a recipe for the most comforting of comfort foods. This recipe from the cookbook “Poole’s: Recipes and Stories from a Modern Diner” (available at Hammertown) is so satisfying and easy. By the way…Chef Ashley Christensen has written not only a wonderful cookbook with amazing recipes but she also shares the inspiring story of how she opened a restaurant, and in the process, energized Raleigh’s downtown. By fostering a network of farmers, cooks, and guests, and taking care of her people by feeding them well, she built a powerful community around the restaurant. The cookbook is infused with Christensen’s generous spirit and belief that great cooking is fundamental to good living. Here’s her intro to Poole’s insanely popular mac & cheese.
“Macaroni au gratin is, of course, a fancy name for mac and cheese. In this case though, it really is so much more than your run-of-the-mill mac. This dish is one of our most beloved offerings, and this year we are on track to sell nearly fifteen thousand orders. Yes, our macaroni au gratin has some serious fans. It is unequivocally our most ordered dish.
Coincidentally, it was one of the first dishes I imagined for the menu at Poole’s. I knew it had to be there and that we could make it great within the constructs of the Poole’s menu ethic: simple classics, pulled apart and reimagined and put back together thoughtfully”.
- Kosher salt
- 6 ounces dry elbow macaroni (about 1 1/4 cups)
- 1 teaspoon neutral vegetable oil
- 2 ounces grana padano, shredded
- 2 ounces Jarlsberg, shredded
- 6 ounces white cheddar, shredded
- 2 cups heavy cream
- Sea salt
In a medium saucepan, bring 2 quarts water and 1 ½ tablespoons kosher salt to a boil. Add the macaroni and return to a boil; once boiling, cook until barely al dente (about 5 minutes), then drain the pasta well. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet and mix in the oil to keep the noodles from sticking. Let cool completely. You should have about 3 cups.
Set a rack in the oven about 4 inches from the broiler and preheat the broiler. Combine the grana padano, Jarlsberg, and white cheddar in a large bowl; reserve 60 percent of the cheese for the top.
In a large deep saucepan, bring the cream and 1 teaspoon sea salt to a boil. Let simmer for about 2 minutes. The cream will foam up and then subside into a simmer. Add the noodles and cook, stirring occasionally, about 90 seconds. The cream will start to thicken just slightly and coat the noodles. Start adding 40 percent of the cheese in small handfuls, stirring and waiting for each addition to melt and incorporate into the sauce before adding more. Transfer the contents of the pan to a 2 ½-quart skillet or baking dish, mound the reserved cheese over the top, and place the dish on a baking sheet to catch any drips. Place the baking sheet under the broiler for 3 to 5 minutes, rotating throughout, until the cheese melts and caramelizes into a golden-brown crust.
Watch it carefully, as every broiler is different. Remove the gratin from the oven and let it rest 5 minutes. Serve immediately.