PIERRE FRANEY’S MACARONI AND CHEESE WITH HAM AND MUSHROOMS (a French take, with Cheddar and Parmesan cheeses, for six)
½ pound uncooked macaroni (about 2 cups)
¾ pound cooked ham, sliced
1/3 pound mushrooms
½ pound sharp Cheddar cheese
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
freshly ground black pepper
½ cup chopped onion
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, more to taste
1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1. Heat oven to 425*. Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add salt to taste. Add the macaroni and cook 10 to 12 minutes, or until tender. Drain and return to the pot.
2. Meanwhile, cut the ham into ½ inch cubes. There should be about 2 cups. Set aside.
3. Slice the mushrooms. There should be about 2 cups. Set aside.
4. Cut the cheddar into slices about ¼ inch thick. Stack the slices and cut them into ¼ inch wide strips. Cut the strips into ¼ inch cubes. There should be about 2 cups.
5. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour, stirring with a wire whisk, and cook for about a minute, then add the milk, whisking rapidly. Let simmer for abut 1 minute, and add the nutmeg, cheddar cheese and salt and black pepper to taste, whisking until smooth. Remove from heat.
6. Melt the remaining tablespoon butter in a skillet. Add the onion and mushrooms and cook, stirring, until mushrooms are wilted, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the ham and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute. Add the cheese sauce, cayenne and cream and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute. Taste, adding more cayenne if needed.
7. Add the macaroni to the sauce and mix well. Transfer to a buttered 3 quart baking dish. Sprinkle the top with the Parmesan cheese and bake for 10 minutes.
8. Turn the broiler to high. Brown the macaroni and cheese under the broiler until the top is nicely browned, 2 to 3 minutes.
printed in the New York Times, January 6, 1988