Every Sunday in our Cambridge shop, the kitchen staff get the day off and a cheesemonger helps to make our “Sunday Sandwiches” – small Iggy’s rolls with a varying assortment of toppings. We always do a vegetarian option or two and then we regularly make some ham and Brie sarnies, sometimes dubbed the “Huron Classic” and at other times, “The Frenchman.” If time allows, that cheesemonger will also whip up an additional dish for the sandwich window. One such Sunday, I had enough time to make a casserole dish of mac ‘n’ cheese. Availing of our “cheese bits” bin, I think I used 35+ cheeses in the end. So, it was only a slight exaggeration when the dish was dubbed “Mil Fromages.” Here is the recipe:
The name of this dish is a hybridization of Spanish (“mil” means “1,000”) and French (“fromage” means “cheese”), a small nod to the blend of nationalities represented by the cheeses in the dish.
12 ounces macaroni
1 ½ cups of panko breadcrumbs
8 ounces clarified butter
4 heaping tablespoons sifted flour
2 ½ cups warmed milk
1 ½ teaspoons black pepper, freshly ground
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 large pinch nutmeg, freshly ground
Roughly 1 lb of mixed cheeses – I like to include cheddar, Comté, Gruyère and Goudas (among others)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (optional)
Pre-heat oven to 400°F.
In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil on high heat. Add a large pinch of salt to the water. Bring your water back to a boil. Add macaroni. Cook for about 5-8 minutes, or until pasta is a little firmer than al dente. *You do not want to overcook your pasta.* Rinse pasta in colander with cold water to stop the pasta from cooking further and to hinder the development of any more starches.
While your pasta is cooking…
In a small saucepan, on medium heat, stir your butter and sifted flour together into a paste. This is the beginning of a roux. Stir occasionally until sauce starts to simmer. Do not let the roux brown. When the mixture starts becoming frothy and begins simmering and bubbling, you may add your milk. Only add about a ½ cup at a time while whisking the mixture together. When all the milk is added, return to a medium simmer/light boil and remove from heat.
In the meantime…
Use a double boiler or fill another medium-sized saucepan with about 1 ½ inches of water. Bring to a boil on medium-high heat. *If you don’t have a double boiler pan to fit exactly into the saucepan, try to find a wok, metal bowl or frying pan that will fit truly on the top.*
Now it is time to add the cheese into the mixture. In our original “Mil Fromages” recipe, we included: Comté, Gruyère, aged Cheddar, aged Goudas, French table cheeses like Pomerol and Cantal, and a few others. Make sure all the cheese is grated. Put the roux in the top pot. Add the mixture of cheeses about ¼-cup at a time, stirring throughout. When all the cheese has melted, add salt and pepper to taste and a large pinch of nutmeg, and finally the Worcestershire sauce. Remove from heat.
Add the cooked macaroni to the cheese mixture and evenly coat the pasta. With your vegetable shortening, grease a casserole dish that is about 3-inches in height. Pour the macaroni into the dish. Distribute your panko breadcrumbs evenly across the top of the pasta. Bake for 20-30 minutes at 400°F on a high rack in the oven, or until panko crumbs are golden brown. Let the dish rest for about 15 minutes before eating.
Tyler Tripp is a cheesemonger and Cave Manager at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge.