Eggy, custard-based mac and cheese casseroles were a staple on the many potluck tables I ate from while growing up in the South. Most of these were overcooked and curdled versions of this dish, leaving me to shun eggy macs at every opportunity. Yet while it contains almost a half-dozen eggs, the Mac and Cheese Soufflé with Country Ham in Ellen Brown's Mac & Cheese is far from the dreaded dishes of my youth.
This soufflé-like casserole is adapted from Sweet Potatoes Restaurant in Winston-Salem, and it offers much more than just macaroni, cheese, and eggs. The custard base contains sour cream in addition to heavy cream for added tang and texture; the pasta is mixed with not just mild yellow cheddar, but also blue cheese and Parmesan. Tiny morsels of country ham sautéed in bacon drippings aren't really necessary, but can you really say no to a little extra pork?
Why I picked this recipe: This egg-based "soufflé" offered a departure from the many roux-based sauces and harkened back to my Southern roots.
What worked: Cheddar plus blue cheese plus country ham equals salty, funky, porky awesomeness.
What didn't: My soufflé never really souffléd, but I wasn't surprised—the mixture of whole eggs, heavy cream, and sour cream sounds more like a custard than a soufflé mixture to me. It poofed a little bit, but I never got a characteristic rise. No matter, the casserole was just fine as it was.
Suggested tweaks: If you can't find country ham, you can substitute prosciutto or even deli ham. I didn't have a proper soufflé dish, so I substituted a 2 quart ceramic baking dish.
Reprinted with permission from Mac & Cheese by Ellen Brown. Copyright 2012. Published by Running Press. Available wherever books are sold. All rights reserved.
- Yield:serves 4 to 6
- Active time: 30 minutes
- Total time:1 hour
- 1/2 pound macaroni
- 4 ounces sharp cheddar, grated, divided
- 2 ounces crumbled blue cheese
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
- 5 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
- 2 tablespoons bacon grease (substitute vegetable oil)
- 4 ounces country ham, chopped
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 2-quart soufflé dish. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Cook the pasta until it is just beginning to soften to the al dente stage. Drain the pasta, and return it to the pot.
Reserve 1/2 cup of the cheddar. Stir the remaining cheddar, blue cheese, and Parmesan into the hot pasta. Combine the eggs, sour cream, cream, and dill in a bowl, and whisk well. Add it to the macaroni mixture. Stir well.
Heat the bacon grease in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ham, and cook for 2 minutes, or until heated through. Stir the ham into the pasta, and pour it into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the reserved cheddar on top.
Bake the soufflé in the center of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the custard is set. Serve immediately.