Get the Recipe
Recently, I posted about a kale gratin made with an obscene three cups of heavy cream. Well, gratin, this mac 'n' cheese from Marcus Samuelsson's new cookbook, Marcus Off Duty, will see you those three cups of cream and raise you coconut milk, bacon, crème fraîche, a stick of butter, and pasta. Oh, and over a pound of cheese. If your poker face is as bad as mine, right now you probably look something like when you walked in on your roommate in the middle of a make-out session with your best friend—surprised, grossed out, curious, and a little turned on.
This really is an outlandish take on the standard. First, Samuelsson cooks down collard greens with coconut milk, soy sauce, mustard, and bacon. This results in a pot of tender greens that could happily stand on their own. Then he makes a fairly traditional, if filthy decadent, cheese sauce with cheddar, Gruyère, and Parmesan cheeses, and mixes the greens and sauce together with orrecchiete pasta. This gets sprinkled with a fresh, green crumble of bread crumbs, cheese, basil, and parsley, briefly broiled to crisp the topping.
When the spoon breaks through the crust and scoops its first dripping portion, the creamy sauce floods the vacancy, requiring another dip of the spoon, and another, until it feels like you're bailing out the ocean. It might be too loose for some, but God help me, that sauce is good. Can you blame a girl for wanting seconds?
Why I picked this recipe: Mac and cheese recipes aren't usually so surprising.
What worked: The greens were phenomenal—just coconutty enough, pungent, and meaty. I feel like they really nail Samuelsson's global-soulfood bent. He packs the flavor into his mac and cheese with those greens, the mix of cheeses, and shallots, nutmeg and mustard powder in the cheese sauce.
What didn't: This does leave you feeling a little dirty. I'm not sure quite all that fat is necessary. You really see the damage you're doing when you reheat it: a pool of grease leaches out, looking mighty unappetizing.
Suggested tweaks: This will assuredly wow a crowd, and it should only be made when that's what your feeding. Next time, I'd make the cheese sauce with 6 tablespoons of butter, 4 cups of milk (no cream), and 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of flour (to make up for the thickening effect of the cream). Samuelsson adds, "If you want to go fancy with this, add some cooked lobster or sautéed mushrooms."
Thanks to our friends at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, we are giving away 5 copies of Marcus Off Duty this week.