The weather has finally shaped up and it looks like Fall is just around the corner. Leaves turning just a smidge of orange, a crisp chill to the breeze, and Pumpkin-everything on the shelves makes for one happy blogger.
As the weather turns cooler, I find that I am more drawn to comfort foods and hearty meals as well. In the summer, it was so hot that all I could think about was ice coffee and microwave meals, anything that meant I didn’t have to turn the oven on.
ALL BETS ARE OFF FRIENDS!
I hope for the blog to become comfort food central as the weather continues to cool and the days darken. The idea of warming up a chilly house sounds so much better than turning an already hot house into a cauldron.
So today, I begin to kick things off with this out-of-sight, dyn-o-mite, French Onion Macaroni and Cheese!
I wish I had some neat story as to where the idea for this came from, but in all honesty it has been sitting in the idea notebook for almost a year. I think I just never had enough confidence in my cooking skills before now to see it through.
But see it through I DID!
And splendidly, I might add.
The most intense part of the recipe stems from caramelizing onions. Though I would love the chance to tell you I’ve found a simple, quick, and stress-free way to do this, I can only come through on the simple and stress-free.
Friends, you can’t rush perfection. I found the recipe for Caramelized Onions in my copy of Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything: The Basics, and I must admit his method turned out glorious results.
The key? Letting the onions sweat out all their moisture before beginning the caramelization process. That, and of course “low and slow” heat for quite some time is important as well.
Once you’ve caramelized the onions, though, this recipe is a cinch to throw together.
Boil your noodles in equal parts water and beef broth (you will thank me, I promise) while you whip up a simple yet amazing Gruyère cheese sauce. Stir all this up, add your caramelized onions, top with panko….
and bake, baby, bake!
This is one of those pasta recipes where your friends and family will just keep coming back for more. The sauce is rich and creamy (but not heavy) and the combination of caramelized onions and crisp panko breadcrumbs lead to texture (and flavor) explosions!
Can you tell I enjoyed this dish?
To make this dish a quick and easy dinner, just caramelize a giant batch of onions up to a week ahead of time, They stay quite well in an airtight container in the fridge, and I’ve even heard you can freeze them for a few months!
Trust me, having that part of the recipe done ahead of time will save you tons of stress and make this dish a weeknight favorite this Fall and Winter!
I’ll be back Wednesday with another Awesome Apple recipe (as if anyone is surprised).
French Onion Mac and Cheese
- one batch caramelized onions* see recipe in Notes Section
- 1 box whole wheat elbow pasta
- equal parts beef broth and water for boiling ~3 cups each
- 1 cup freshly grated Gruyere cheese plus more for topping
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp flour
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and boil pasta in beef broth and water, according to package directions, leaving a little al dente since it will finish up in the sauce in the oven.
- For the sauce: melt butter in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Once melted, whisk in flour and cook for 1 minute (but don't let it turn brown).
- Slowly whisk in milk, stirring constantly to remove any clumps. Bring this mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for 3-4 minutes or until thickened slightly.
- Reduce heat to low and whisk in gruyere cheese until melted, then remove from heat until ready to use.
- Drain pasta, then combine with sauce and caramelized onions in your pasta pot (the one you used to boil the noodles). Pour pasta mixture into a large cast iron skillet or a 9x9 inch casserole dish, top with breadcrumbs and additional gruyere cheese if desired.
- Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbly. To achieved more browning, put under broiler for only a minute or two (Be sure to watch because it can burn quickly!).