Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

October 24, 2021
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Mac and cheese

Good old mac and cheese, but with a sophisticated edge

¾ lb. (340 g) kale, stems cut from leaves (about 5½ c./1.4 L)
8 oz. (228 g) elbow macaroni (about 2¼ c./560 ml)
½ oz. (15 g) dried porcini, rinsed (about ½ c./125 ml)
3 tbsp. (45 ml) olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
¾ lb. (375 g) cremini mushrooms, halved and thinly sliced (about 4¾ c./1.2L)
¼ tsp. (1.25 ml) dried thyme
¼ tsp. (1.25 ml) rubbed sage
¼ c. (60 ml) all-purpose flour
2 c. (500 ml) milk
1½ tsp. (7.5 ml) sweet smoked paprika
1 tsp. (5 ml) salt
2½ c. (625 ml) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 tbsp. (30 ml) unsalted butter
½ c. (125 ml) panko bread crumbs

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the kale for 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the kale to a colander, keeping cooking water at a boil. Run the kale under cold water to stop the cooking, drain and squeeze out any liquid. Coarsely chop.

Add the macaroni to the boiling water, cook and drain.

In a small bowl, combine the porcini with 1 cup (250 ml) warm water. Let stand until the mushrooms have softened, 20 minutes. With your fingers, lift the mushrooms out of the liquid, leaving the grit behind. Line a fine-mesh sieve with paper towels, a paper coffee filter or cheesecloth. Pour the liquid through the sieve into a bowl. Reserve. Coarsely chop the mushrooms.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (190°C).

In a 5-quart (5-L) Dutch oven or other large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, 2 minutes. Add the porcini and cremini mushrooms, thyme and sage, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have wilted and released their juices, 5 minutes.

Stir in the flour and cook for 2 minutes. Add the mushroom-soaking liquid, milk, paprika and salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened, 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese until melted. Add the macaroni and kale, and toss to coat.

Transfer the mixture to a 9- x 13-inch (22.5- x 32.5-cm) glass baking dish or individual ramekins.

In a small skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the panko and toss to coat. Scatter the buttered crumbs over the mac and cheese. Bake for 30 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling, and the top is crunchy and golden brown. Serves 8.


• Swap another green for the kale, such as escarole or even cooked broccoli.
• Use Gruyère instead of cheddar cheese. For extra kick, add 1/8 teaspoon (0.5 ml) cayenne pepper and 1 teaspoon (5 ml) Dijon mustard.
• Instead of making a large mac and cheese, make two 9- x 9-inch (22.5- x 22.5-cm) pans and freeze one, unbaked and well wrapped, for a later date. Bake straight from the freezer for 45 minutes.

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