Mac and Cheese with Swiss Chard

Have you ever found yourself with a beautiful bunch of Swiss Chard and wondered “well what the heck am I going to do with this now?” Here is one very tasty idea! I made this for dinner last night and it was a hit. I dare you to give it a try tonight!

Ingredients:

  • 1lb of Macaroni (or any bite sized pasta will do)
  • 4 cups of Grated Cheese, preferably a sharp cheddar. A mixture of cheeses will work as well
  • 1 bunch of Swiss Chard
  • 1 stick of Butter
  • 1/3 cup Flour
  • 2 minced Garlic Cloves
  • 1 Medium Onion, diced
  • a few slices of Thick Cut/Country Style Bacon (optional)
  • 3 1/2 cups Milk
  • 2 teaspoons Dry Mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dried Thyme
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon Nutmeg
  • 2/3 cup Panko Bread Crumbs
  • Additional Salt & Pepper to taste

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Go ahead and preheat your oven to 400 F.

The first thing we will want to do on the stove is get water boiling in a large sauce pan, don’t forget to salt your water. This is the only opportunity we have to season the macaroni itself.

Next, wilt the chard. If you haven’t already,  prep it by cutting away the stems and removing them. But be sure to save them for something else, maybe a stock, or you can dice them up and use them as you would celery.

Note: I’m using an extra large, 5 quart saute pan. If you do not have something similar in size, I’d recommend using a large saucepan/pot.

Begin wilting the chard in a large pan over medium heat with 1 tablespoon of your butter.

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This process will only take a couple of minutes. Once wilted, you will want to remove it from your pan and set it aside for the moment.

Reserve one more tablespoon of your butter for the topping, and use the remaining 6 tablespoons in the pan. Increase the heat to medium high and add your diced onion and sprinkle over a little bit of salt to help the onions sweat.

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Once the onions have started to become a bit translucent, it’s time to add your salt, dry mustard, nutmeg, and thyme. Oh, and your bacon! Add your bacon now, don’t be like me and forget it until it’s much later.

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Let cook for a couple more minutes. Once your bacon looks cooked, add your garlic and heat it through for about 30 to 60 seconds. We want to take the raw edge off the garlic, but we don’t want to brown it.

Add your flour and mix it until it coats everything in the pan and you see no more white.

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Let the flour cook for about 2 minutes.

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Around this time I said to myself “Oh, great! I forgot my bacon!” Well, I didn’t say “oh great,” but I’m going to try to keep it clean here. 😛 Thankfully my bacon was already cooked through, so that wasn’t a worry.

Time to add in your milk. Add a little at first and give things a good stir.

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Once it looks incorporated well and you have a thick sauce going on, dump in the rest of the milk.

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It will be thin for a few minutes, but keep it on medium high until it starts to bubble. Once it begins bubbling it will thicken nicely. It will become even thicker later on when we add our cheese.

If you haven’t already, go ahead and add your pasta to the boiling water. I used macaroni today, and it has a cook time of 8 to 10 minutes. Keeping in mind that I was going to bake the macaroni later in the sauce, I only cooked the pasta for 6 minutes to avoid an overly soggy end product. So, basically take your pasta out two to three minutes early.

Back to our sauce, once things have thickened, turn off the heat and mix in your chard.

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Time to mix in 3 1/2 cups of the cheese, reserving 1/2 cup for the topping.

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Add your macaroni.

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At this point you may be thinking that it looks good enough to just eat like this! But wait, it gets better.

Melt your reserved tablespoon of butter and mix it in with your 2/3 cup panko crumbs. Add your reserved 1/2 cup cheese, toss it all together.

Dish your macaroni into a 13×9 casserole dish, or into whatever dishes you have. I’m using two individual sized pans (no clue the size), and a casserole dish that is 2 quarts, I believe.

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Distribute your topping evenly. Pop into your 400 degree oven and bake for about 25 minutes, or until your top becomes golden brown and gorgeous.

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Let sit for 10 minutes to cool off, because right now it’s piping hot.

Once it has cooled a bit, sit, eat, enjoy!

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