We got a very nice coupon for 20% off cookbooks at Davis Kidd. Yes. I know. We have plenty of cookbooks. But it’s a coupon. It needs to be used or it will expire feeling incomplete and uncared for with a whole lot of existential angst. I would hate for that to happen to such a nice coupon. And besides, like my mother taught me, it’s not how much you spend, it’s how much you save, especially when shoes are involved. QED, the more I spend with a coupon like this, the more I save, and that’s good. Right? Ain’t logic grand?
So, we went to Davis Kidd. We went specifically to get a book to go with our Christmas toy that Paul told you about. They didn’t have that book, though, and we still had the coupon. So we came home with Mimi Sheraton’s The German Cookbook, The I Hate to Cook Book: 50th Anniversary Edition, Joe Dabney’s The Food, Folklore, and Art of Lowcountry Cooking, and, oh yeah, the Le Creuset Mini-Cocotte cookbook.
You may ask, “Why, Angela, how many Le Creuset Mini Cocottes do you have?” I have none. Zilch. Nada. Zero. Have I wanted them? Yes. Have I positively lusted over them to an unhealthy and less-than-sane level? Yes. Have I hinted subliminally (as in “Those Le Creuset cocottes would be the best present ever in the whole world, and if I had them I would never want anything ever again so-help-me-God-I-promise-really-mean-it-this-time-probably-I-think-maybe.”)? Yes again.
And so my husband, out of his undying love for me, has bought me this little book. I am both thrilled and charmed and seething all at the same time. Is he being sweet? Or is he mocking me for my well-known desire for these little babies? I would like to think he’s tempting me. After all, even if I can’t sneak over to Williams-Sonoma for them, Amazon sells them, even the cherry red ones that would go with my other things. Of course, he could be testing me, seeing how much impulse control I really have (not much).
And besides, they’re only $19.99 on Amazon instead of the $20 list price. So that’s a whole 8 cents if we buy 8 of them. 8 cents! That can buy, well, not much I can think of but there has to be something. Stick of gum, maybe? Couple of Tic-Tacs? A Pez or two? See. all that with just 8 cents.
Besides, maybe he won’t even notice that I put them in our cart until it ships. Right?
No, you don't need cocottes to make this. To be honest, you don't really need ramekins to make this. You can spoon the whole thing into a small baking dish, and it will taste just as good.
This also freezes well. Cover tightly with foil to freeze and allow it to defrost to room temperature before cooking. You will want to increase the cooking time to 20 to 25 minutes, checking the temperature of the middle of the dish to make sure it's warmed through. Keep it covered until the last 10 minutes of cooking time to keep the breadcrumbs from burning.
You don't have to use this many different cheeses or these particular ones. Blue cheese or Gorgonzola give mac & cheese a nice kick of funkiness, if you're into that. If you want to be decadent, add St. Andre or Camembert to the mix. Goat cheese will add a nice tang. My only set rule is to use higher fat cheeses because they melt more smoothly. If you don't have fresh nutmeg, the ground kind is fine. But if you can, try grating it fresh for this. Your mouth will thank you. And if you like it spicy, throw in a little cayenne. Personally, if I'm in a spicy mood, I like to use cayenne to dust over the breadcrumbs instead of black pepper. Yes, I did drizzle bacon drippings over this. You don't have to, but either the drippings or some melted butter will help the breadcrumbs to crisp. And speaking of the breadcrumbs, make your own if you have some stale bread sitting around. I actually like to use panko for my mac & cheese just to make it even crunchier on top.
- 1 pound macaroni noodles
- 2 ounces bacon or country ham, diced
- 1/4 stick unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 ounces Fontina
- 2 ounces sharp Cheddar
- 2 ounces Tallegio
- 2 ounces Parmesan
- 2 ounces ricotta
- Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs, divided
- Preheat oven to 325.
- Cook the macaroni according to package directions until it just reaches al dente. Don't let the pasta cook completely.
- While the water for the pasta is coming to a boil, cook the bacon or country ham until it is beginning to crisp. Drain, reserving the drippings.
- Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the cream and the cheeses, stirring constantly until the cheeses have melted. Stir in the nutmeg. Add the bacon or ham and taste before adding salt. Season to taste.
- Stir the egg into the pasta, tossing to coat. Add the pasta to the melted cheese and stir to combine.
- Divide the pasta into fourths and spoon into cocottes or large ramekins. Do not pack them tightly.
- Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs over the top of the macaroni in each dish. Drizzle reserved bacon or ham drippings over the breadcrumbs. Sprinkle with black pepper.
- Bake for 15 minutes or until the breadcrumbs are golden brown and crisped.
- Allow the dishes to rest 5 minutes before serving.
Husband’s update: Yeah, like I wasn’t going to notice that there were eight additional items in our Amazon cart. At least she makes good mac & cheese.