Sage Macaroni and Cheese
I know that I'm not alone in my ardent love for macaroni and cheese. As is the case with its rich and creamy variants--ice cream, gratin, cheesecake, spinach artichoke dip--every splendid bite feels like some sort of luxurious bequest, perfectly indulgent. You can just close your eyes and have a personal celebration that, for however quick and fleeting a moment, life is just delicious. That's dangerous, isn't it? All things in moderation they say, so you can dish these up in ramekins and serve them beside something green and/or protein packed.
This recipe calls for infusing the milk with fresh sage before creating the roux, and topping each ramekin with crunchy flash fried sage. The sage is a soft, subtle note in the mix, just enough to satiate and spark curiosity for more. Again, dangerous. I hope you enjoy! -Mallory
Sage Macaroni and Cheese
Serves 6 (Bake in 1-cup ramekins or a 1.5 to 2-quart baking dish)
2 1/2 cups milk
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
12 sage leaves, divided
1/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorn
2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups gruyere, grated
1 cup sharp cheddar, grated
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup olive oil
6 sage leaves, for frying
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Bring milk, shallot, 6 of the sage leaves, and peppercorn to a simmer over medium-high heat. Make sure not to boil it, just simmer. Reduce to medium and simmer until the milk is reduced to 2 cups, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes. Strain out the shallot, sage leaves, and peppercorn, reserving the milk for the macaroni and cheese.
Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat, add a dash of salt (optional) and cook macaroni according to the instructions on the package, about 8 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Grease the ramekins (or baking dish) with butter or cooking oil and set aside.
In a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter then add the flour, whisking continuously as the roux begins to bubble and change in color, 2-3 minutes. Slowly whisk in the infused milk and continue to stir constantly as it thickens. Once all the clumps are gone, remove from heat and add in the gruyere, cheddar, salt, and pepper. Next, fold in the cooked macaroni and transfer to the ramekins. Top with breadcrumbs and bake for 35 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.
When you take the macaroni out of the oven, fry the remaining 6 sage leaves. It will only take a few minutes, so you don't have to worry about the macaroni and cheese getting too cool. Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sage leaves and let fry for only a few seconds, then transfer them immediately to a paper towel to drain and cool.