Giving In: Gruyère and Emmentaler Macaroni and Cheese Casserole with Ham and Cubed Sourdough

Saturday, November 8, 2014

-This utterly sexy photo by Matt Armendariz.-

So I'm giving in this year.

Admittedly, it's not something I usually do, let alone admit to. I'm what many call stubborn, though I prefer stalwart. But after complaints, begging, pleading, and even a bit of polite asking I'll bend for once.

This year I'll make stuffing for Thanksgiving.

Now, admittedly, this probably sounds odd. Can one have a Thanksgiving without stuffing?

Yes. Yes you can.

Usually, I make blue cheese biscuits, cheddar crackers, homemade olive bread, or some epic macaroni and cheese where the cheese sauce bubbles over the sides and the house smells like warm feelings and comfort.

Last year, I crafted a wild rice stuffing studded with feta, roasted chanterelles, toasted pine nuts, dried cranberries, and the finest mince of scallion.

What did my guests say? "Oh, it's good. Delicious, in fact. I just miss real stuffing."

One even had the gall to ask if I wanted him to run out and grab a box of *shudder* Stouffer's. After beating him unconscious and leaving his corpse on the street I went back to my apparently simple rice stuffing and spooned in onto the unappreciative plates of my so-called loved ones.

So, this year, I'll make stuffing. I plan to use sourdough, cherries, sage, hazelnuts (or, perhaps, pecans), and plenty of turkey sausage. That should shut them right up.

However, if you're looking for something hearty for Turkey Day but don't want to do stuffing, might I recommend the following?

This is another popular recipe from my cookbook, Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese. If sitting by a warm fire in Europe has a flavor I imagine this to be it. It'll put meat on your bones, no doubt, but think of it as protection from the cold or perhaps a return on investment when you ate nothing but salad last summer.

It uses ham, but feel free to omit it and use roasted cauliflower instead.

Another option is leftover turkey because fuck yes leftover turkey mac and cheese.

Gruyère and Emmentaler Macaroni and Cheese Casserole with Ham and Cubed Sourdough

Gruyère, named after the Swiss district of Gruyère, is a lovely, hard cow’s milk cheese known the world over for its seductively melty personality. Luscious and smooth, Gruyère is often paired with Emmentaler to make what can only be described as a superlative fondue.

With Gruyère and Emmentaler intertwined in a heady embrace, we toss Black Forest ham into the mix, making for a sultry ménage à trois of flavor and texture. Topped with chunky cubed sourdough for crunch, this casserole is more than delicious—it’s sinful.

Alternative cheeses: Any reputable Gruyère and Emmentaler will go well in this recipe. Ask your local cheesemonger.

Wine pairings: Viognier, Altesse, Roussanne, Pinot Noir, dry rosé.

Additional pairings for the cheese: toasted walnuts, bacon, crusty bread.

10 ounces elbow macaroni
2 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground
Freshly-ground black pepper
2 tablespoons
Dijon mustard
10 ounces Gruyère, shredded
8 ounces Emmentaler, shredded
8 ounces Black Forest ham, cut into ½-inch cubes
2 cups sourdough bread cubes, each about ½ inch square, crust on

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (176°C). Lightly butter an 8-by-8-inch baking dish. Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain through a colander and set aside.

2. To prepare the mornay sauce, heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. As soon as the milk starts to steam and tiny bubbles form around the edges of the pan, turn off the heat. Place the butter in a medium saucepan and melt over medium flame.

3. Add the flour and stir with a flat-edge wooden paddle just until the roux begins to take on a light brown color, scraping the bottom to prevent burning, about 3 minutes. Slowly add the milk and stir constantly until the sauce thickens enough to evenly coat the back of a spoon—a finger drawn along the back of the spoon should leave a clear swath. Remove from heat and stir in salt and pepper.

4. Add mustard and cheese to sauce, stirring until completely melted.

5. Pour pasta into greased baking dish and toss with ham. Pour the cheese sauce over the top of the pasta and stir gently to incorporate into the ham and noodles. Top liberally with bread cubes, slide into the oven, and bake for 30 minutes. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.


  1. Your wild rice stuffing sounds amazing and I'd love a recipe if you have one!

  2. I'll admit to being a bit of a stuffing fiend come holiday season BUT as a guest or attendee of a holiday meal, I'll never be so rude as to point out its absence on the table (I might make a pitstop at a Whole Foods on the way home & grab one of theirs afterwards, though...)

    Love this Swiss mac 'n cheese idea (& it also reminded me of NPR/Planet Money's recent segment on the Swiss cheese "union" & their mafia like tactics to whittle down "Swiss cheese" to just a few varieties.


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