Mac ‘n Ham ‘n Cheese

“It’s diamonds in your pockets one week, macaroni and cheese the next.”
Jolene BlalockMac n Cheese Just the end of a chunk of sweet slice ham is enough to dress up a comfort dinner dish, simply cubed and added to a creamy, cheesy, béchamel for a baked mac n cheese topped with cornbread stuffing crumbs and parmesan cheese…that’s what’s for dinner along with a great salad on a busy slow cooking day around my kitchen.  I actually made two dinners today, tonight’s and a company dinner for Sunday and boy the aroma’s from the kitchen would keep anyone circling the island for a taste or a nibble of anything that might cross the counter.  I’ll save the Sunday chicken post for another day, but for now a simple dinner…

One special cheesy flavor burst is a bit of crispy baked parmesan that I had leftover from carbonara night.

Béchamel for My Mac n Cheese … feel free to adapt according to your tastes using other favorite ingredients.  This enough for about 6 ounces of cooked elbow or curly elbow macaroni.
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
3 slices thin slices of sweet onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard or
*A sprinkle of white or black pepper
2 small bay leaves
1 tablespoon chopped parsley/dried is fine
snippets of fresh rosemary leaves
2 teaspoons Lowensenf mustard dashes of white pepper pinch of cayenne pepper
1+1/2 cup whole milk
3/8 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 lb. of sharp cheddar, cubed
1/2 cup grated parmesan and additional for top.
*optional dashes of hot sauce
*optional cubed ham about 1 cup
crumbs from cornbread stuffing mix for topping
freshly grated parmesan

1 buttered casserole or oven skillet.
*optional crispy part crumbles
Measure out the milk and cream in a large measuring cup and add the bay leaves.  Warming microwave for at least a minute to 1+1/2 minutes.  Put aside and make your béchamel.  Melt the butter, add the flour and onions in a saucepan large enough to mix the pasta and sauce together, whisking together for two minutes.  Add the mustard and slowly incorporate the milk and cream cooking until thickened adding the cheeses a few chunks at a time whisking in until all of the cheese has melted in, remove from heat and gently blend in the cooked pasta and optional ham with a large rubber spatula.  Sprinkle in snippets of rosemary (about 1/4-1/2 teaspoon) and chopped parsley.  Add the macaroni to the buttered dish or skillet, top with cornbread stuffing crumbs and more grated parmesan.   Bake in a 350º oven for 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly, remove and allow to sit for a few minutes before serving.   *remove bay leaves before serving