Monday, December 8, 2014

Spinach-Mushroom Mac and Cheese

I find it difficult to get a good picture of mac and cheese. Especially when you are in a hurry to eat because your mac and cheese just came out of the oven. Instead of my picture trying to convince you to try this dish, I must rely on my words.

This is a hearty, yet surprisingly diverse, mac and cheese casserole. There is enough going on with the ingredients and flavor that you do not feel like you have a chore of getting through a plate full of mac and cheese. Not that that is ever too much of a chore.

Spinach-Mushroom Mac and Cheese
The Heart of the Plate - Molly Katzen

1/2 lb orecchiette
1 T olive oil
1 c milk
1 T unsalted butter
1/2 lb mushrooms, in 1/2" dice
1 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 tsp dijon-style mustard
2 T flour
1 c beer, room temperature (I didn't have any; used chicken stock instead)
1 lb spinach (original recipe calls for chopping - I threw it in whole - worked just fine)
1 1/2 c sharp white cheddar (6 oz)
3/4 c bread crumbs
1/2 c walnuts, minced (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly spray a 2-quart baking dish or 8" square pan with nonstick spray.

Put a pot of water on to boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and transfer to a bowl. Toss with a little olive oil and set aside.

Heat milk, in micro, until steaming and hot to the touch, but not boiling. Set hot milk near stove.

In a saucepan, add oil and butter. Add mushrooms and 1/2 tsp salt and cook 5 minutes. Whisk in garlic and mustard, then turn heat to low and sprinkle in flour, whisking constantly. Continue to whisk another 15 seconds or so.

Keep pan over low heat as you drizzle in hot milk, whisking constantly. When milk is incorporated, whisk in beer. Turn heat up to medium and stir constantly as you add chopped spinach and remaining 1/2 tsp salt. Cook 5 minutes, or until spinach wilts into sauce. Remove from heat and stir in cooked pasta and cheese.

Transfer mixture to baking pan. Top with bread crumbs and walnuts and book uncovered 15-20 minutes. Serve hot.

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