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Montgomery Cheddar Macaroni with Baked Apples

This image courtesy of Matt Armendariz

When I was a kid, my grandma Marina would smother a slice of apple pie with Cheddar cheese, then slide the plate into the toaster oven to form a thick, orange blanket over her dessert. I was a youngster, so the concept of sweet mixed with savory flavors left me totally baffled. Why would you ruin your sweet treat with a layer of cheese? Oh, If I had only been able to appreciate the wonderful flavor combination that is cinnamon apples and stout British Cheddar. Something about the sweet heat of the apples and the sharp sassiness of the cheese produces an unexpected pairing that just makes sense. These two strong personalities might be polar opposites, but they fit together like they were meant for each other from the very beginning. -SS

Serves4 to 6

Cooking MethodBaking, Sauteeing

CostInexpensive

Easy

Kid FriendlyYes

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Recipe CourseMain Course, Side Dish

Dietary ConsiderationPeanut Free, Soy Free, Tree Nut Free, Vegetarian

MealDinner, Lunch

Taste and TextureCheesy, Rich

Type of DishBaked Pasta, Casserole, Pasta

Ingredients

  • 6 Pink lady apples (or Honeycrisp or Granny Smith), peeled, cored, and cut into ½-inch chunks
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 16 ounces elbow macaroni
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • 5 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 20 ounces Montgomery Cheddar, shredded, divided
  • 6 ounces Gruyère, shredded
  • 3 cups fresh corn-bread crumbs

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. In a small baking dish, combine apples, lemon juice, cinnamon, sugar, and salt. Toss together and cover the dish with foil. Bake for 45 minutes. Once the apples are done, leave the oven on.

  2. While the apples are baking, prepare the casserole, Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with a touch of butter. Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente, Drain through a colander and spread the noodles into the baking dish.

  3. To prepare the mornay sauce, heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. As soon as the milk starts to steam and tiny bubbles form around the edges of the pan, turn off the heat. Place 3 tablespoons of the butter in a medium saucepan and melt over medium flame. Add the flour and stir with a flat-edge wooden paddle just until the roux begins to take on a light brown color, scraping the bottom to prevent burning, about 3 minutes. Slowly add the milk and stir constantly until the sauce thickens enough to evenly coat the back of a spoon-a finger drawn along the back of the spoon should leave a clear swath. Remove from heat and stir in salt, pepper, and thyme, Add cheeses to sauce, reserving 1 cup of the Cheddar, and stir until completely melted.

  4. Stir the noodles in the baking dish to loosen them up, then pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and toss until all noodles are coated in sauce. Spread a thick layer of corn-bread crumbs over the casserole and dot the top with the remaining butter. Bake for 30 minutes.

  5. Remove casserole from oven and portion onto ovenproof plates. Top each with a heaping spoonful of baked apples and 3 tablespoons of shredded Cheddar cheese, then slide the plates under the broiler for a minute, until the Cheddar on top is a melted, bubbly layer of yum. Serve immediately.

Notes

  1. ALTERNATIVE CHEESES: Beecher’s Truckle Reserve, Lincolnshire Poacher, any sturdy aged British Cheddar

  2. WINE PAIRINGS, Viognier, Chardonnay, champagne, Pinot Noir

  3. ADDITIONAL PAIRINGS FOR THE CHEESE: chutney, salami, wheat crackers

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