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."
Excerpted from Marcus Off Duty: The Recipes I Cook at Home © 2014 by Marcus Samuelsson. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
- For the Collard Greens:
- 1/2 cup coconut milk
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon grainy mustard
- 6 slices bacon, cooked, drained, and crumbled
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
- 4 cups chopped well-washed collard greens
- For the Mac and Cheese:
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup whole milk
- 8 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
- 4 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated
- 4 ounces Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
- 1/2 cup crème fraîche
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon mustard powder
- Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper
- 1 pound orecchiette or other small, sturdy pasta, cooked until just tender
- For the Topping:
- 1/3 cup toasted bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon grated Gruyère cheese
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Make the collard greens: Bring the coconut milk and soy sauce to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat and stir in the mustard and crumbled bacon.
Heat the olive oil and butter in a large pot over low heat. Add the garlic and slowly toast to flavor the fats, about 5 minutes, then discard. Add the collard greens to the pot and cook, stirring frequently, until the greens start to wilt. Stir in the coconut milk mixture and cook, partly covered, until the greens are tender and the sauce has thickened, about 20 minutes.
Make the mac and cheese: Preheat the broiler. Oil a 9-x-13-inch baking dish.
Melt the butter in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and cook until they’re tender and golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the minced garlic and flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the heavy cream and milk, making sure there are no lumps. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, then add all the cheeses and the crème fraîche. Whisk until the cheeses are melted and fully incorporated into the sauce. Mix in the nutmeg, mustard, and salt and white pepper to taste.
Add the cooked pasta and collard greens to the sauce and toss to combine. Transfer to the baking dish.
Make the topping: Put all the ingredients in a food processor and process until the herbs are minced. Sprinkle the topping over the pasta. Broil until the topping is golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes. Serve immediately.