Monday, September 30, 2013
Kale Macaroni and Cheese
An early summer dinner at Woodberry Kitchen included a delicious vegetable laced mac ' n cheese. Not too creamy, yet not too dry. Not too, too cheesy and not spoiled by too much kale. Just enough crispy topping without overdoing the top layer of noodles. In all ways, a perfect balance.
I wanted to recreate that dish at home for my family to enjoy. This is not an everyday dinner, but a special comfort food treat, made just slightly lighter. I made this when a college age son of friends, home alone for a week, came for dinner, and I made it again when Ted and Maddy were both here at the same time at the end of the summer.
As Woodberry Kitchen does, I went with a rustic presentation, using either the No. 9 (11 inch?) Griswold cast iron rescued from my parents' house or my Le Creuset cafe pan which is a little lower and wider.
Kale Mac 'n Cheese in Homage to Woodberry Kitchen
(serves 4 - 6, depending on appetite, 8 as a side dish)
1 bunch Lacinato or Toscano kale
1 pound thin penne rigate
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups whole milk
15 - 20 ounces shredded cheese (I use a mix of mild and sharp cheddar and asiago)
1/2 cup bread crumbs (I like a mix of whole wheat and panko)
1/2 cup grated or ground Pecorino Romano cheese
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Blanch, drain and chop the kale. This requires a large pot of boiling water, into which you drop the kale, scoop it out into a strainer set over a bowl of ice water. Let cool, squeeze out all the water and then chop. You can also thaw about a half bag of frozen kale in a strainer and then squeeze out the water. I like to use my pasta pot for this step and then use it for cooking the penne.
3. Bring the water in the pot back to a boil and add the penne and cook to just under al dente. The pasta is going to be baked also, so you want it to be just under cooked at this stage.
4. In a sauce pan, melt the butter and olive oil until butter starts to foam and then whisk in the flour and whisk mixture for a few minutes. Add the milk slowly and whisk continuously to make sure there are no lumps. Once you have a smooth texture, turn off the heat and add the cheese. Mix well until the cheese is melted and then add the kale, making sure it doesn't stay in clumps.
5. If the sauce pan is large enough, add the pasta into the cheese sauce, otherwise add the pasta and the cheesy kale mixture back into the pasta pot and mix well.
6. Place into an 11 or 12 inch cast iron pan (though mine is well seasoned, I do hit it with a coating of cooking spray). Sprinkle the bread crumbs and then the Pecorino cheese over the top.
7. Bake for about 35 - 40 minutes until bubbling and the top starts to brown. If after 40 minutes this has not happened, raise heat to 400 degrees and check again after 5 minutes. Let stand for a few minutes before serving.
Photo: Maddy Bazil