- Course: Main Course, Side Dish
- Skill Level: Moderate
- Cost: Moderate
- Favorited: 27 Times
Le Gratin de Macaroni Benoît Guichard
This rich macaroni gratin—a far cry from the macaroni and cheese of my youth—is deliciously moist. Benoît Guichard, Joel Robuchon protégé and chef at the famed Jamin restaurant, cooks the pasta, to plump it, in milk, then cools the cooking liquid down with ice cubes, which prevents the macaroni from drying out. Like so many French dishes, this one is embellished – here by the enrichment of a golden cheese crust and the added sharpness of fresh chives and coarsely ground black pepper. This can be served as a main pasta course accompanied by a salad, or as an accompaniment to grilled or roasted meats or poultry.
The white sauce:
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 fresh or dried bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- Fine sea salt to taste
- Freshly grated nutmeg to taste
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- Freshly ground white pepper
- 3 quarts whole milk
- 4 plump, fresh cloves garlic, peeled
- 4 tablespoons sea salt
- 12 ounces imported Italian penne pasta
- 1 cup freshly grated Swiss Gruyère cheese
- Coarsely ground white pepper, for garnish
- 4 tablespoons minced fresh chives, for garnish
- 6-quart pasta pot fitted with a colander
- 1½-quart gratin dish
1. Prepare the white sauce, or béchamel: In a large saucepan scald the milk over high heat, bringing it just to the boiling point. Remove the pan from the heat, add the bay leaves, cover, and set aside to infuse for 10 minutes. Then strain the milk through a fine-mesh sieve into a measuring cup with a pouring spout, and discard the bay leaves.
2. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over moderate heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Do not let the flour brown. Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in the hot strained milk, a few tablespoons at a time, stirring constantly until all the milk has been incorporated into the flour mixture.
3. Return the saucepan to the heat. Add sea salt and a generous grating of nutmeg. Cook over low heat, whisking constantly, until the sauce thickens, 1 to 2 minutes. Continue to cook over the lowest possible heat, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thick and any taste of raw flour is eliminated, another 3 to 4 minutes. Set aside. Once the sauce has cooled, stir in the heavy cream. Season with freshly ground white pepper. Set aside.
4. Preheat the broiler. Place an oven rack about 3 inches from the heat.
5. Prepare the pasta: In a 6-quart pasta pot fitted with a colander, combine the milk and garlic. Scald the milk over high heat, bringing it just to the bubbling point. Remove from the heat, cover, and set aside to infuse for 10 minutes. Remove and discard the garlic. Bring the milk back to a simmer, add the pasta, and cook at a gentle simmer until still firm but al dente (you should just be able to cut the pasta with a knife), about 8 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and add about 1 quart ice cubes to stop the cooking. Once it has cooled, use a slotted spoon to transfer the pasta to a large bowl. Discard the milk. Toss the drained pasta with the white sauce, and transfer the mixture to a 1½-quart gratin dish. Sprinkle with the cheese.
6. Place the gratin dish on the oven rack, and broil until the cheese is melted and golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the dish from the oven and season generously with coarsely ground white pepper. Garnish with minced chives, and serve immediately.
This gratin is delicious on its own, or it could be served with a simple roast lamb or veal. In that case, Benoît Guichard suggests a Sociando-Mallet Bordeaux with a few years of age, or a similar grand cru bourgeois from the Haut Médoc.
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© 2001 Patricia Wells
Note from Cookstr's Editors
Nutritional information includes 1/8 teaspoon of added salt per serving.