Shells and Chard
I had last weekend to myself and proclaimed it bachelor weekend. I watched sports, drank beers, and nuzzled with my dog.
Then I realized that I’m a pretty bad bachelor because that’s sort of what I do on every weekend, even when Betsy is home. I figured I would at least try to class up an old bachelor meal and macaroni and cheese won out in the poll last week! Of course, the stereotypical bachelor is making boxed mac and cheese but, like I said, I’m a piss poor bachelor.
I’ve also explored the boxed mac and cheese vs. homemade in my homemade trials so I know that I can easily do better than the boxed stuff.
Instead of making a baked version, I just ate it right out of the pot which means it was super creamy and wonderfully cheesy. I folded in some wilted chard because, hey, I’m thirty now. I have to look out for my health!
Shells and Chard Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese
Yield: Serves 4.
10-12 ounces shells macaroni pasta
1 large bunch Swiss or rainbow chard, chopped
1/2 lemon, juice only
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
2 cups cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs, toasted
1) Toast breadcrumbs in a dry pan over low heat until they are lightly browned, about 4-5 minutes. Let cool and set aside for later.
2) Wash chard well and roughly chop, removing any thick ribs in the leaves. In a large pot over medium-high heat, add a tablespoon of olive oil and the chard. Squeeze in half a lemon and let cook until chard is wilted, about 3-4 minutes. Remove, season with a pinch of salt and set aside for later.
3) Cook pasta according to directions either in the same pot or separately. When pasta is cooked, drain and rinse with some cold water to make sure the pasta isn't sticking to itself.
4) In the large pot, add butter and flour over medium heat and whisk together. Cook for 3-4 minutes until the paste turns a tan color and smells nutty. Then start whisking in milk in a slow, even stream. Whisk constantly to prevent lumps. If mixture ever gets very thin, let it return to a simmer and thicken and then continue adding milk.
5) When sauce is combined, let thicken for a few minutes and then whisk in cheese and season with white pepper and a pinch of salt.
6) When cheese has melted into the sauce, stir in cooked shells pasta and chard. Mix well to combine.
Serve while hot straight out of the pot garnished with lots of toasted breadcrumbs for texture.
Add-ins and Toppings
Before I actually work on the mac and cheese, I thought I’d get the add-ins and toppings ready. The topping is really just Panko breadcrumbs that I toasted in a dry skillet over low heat for a few minutes until they are lightly browned. They add some awesome texture to the finished dish and take all of three minutes to make.
For the chard, I chopped up a whole big bunch of chard by cutting out the thick ribs and then roughly chopping the chard.
In a large pot, add a drizzle of oil over medium heat and then toss in your chard. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and let this cook until the chard is nicely wilted. Again, this won’t take more than a minute or two.
This was my finished wilted chard which I seasoned with a tiny pinch of salt. Also a great side dish, but we are going to work it into the mac and cheese later.
Lots of pastas will work with this dish. Use your favorite or one that you have in your house. I went with little shells for this version because I liked how “Shells and Chard” sounded. Seriously, no other reason.
Cook the pasta until it’s just cooked through but don’t over cook it. Nobody likes mushy pasta.
When it’s done, drain it and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking on the pasta and make sure the pasta doesn’t stick together.
I’ve made a roux many dozens of times on this site, but for those who are new, making a cheese sauce is pretty darn easy. Make sure you use a large enough pot to fit all of your stuff: sauce, pasta, and chard. Add the butter and flour over medium heat and whisk it together until the flour starts to turn a light tan color.
Then start to slowly whisk in your milk.Pour too fast and you’ll end up with lumps so work slowly.
When all the milk is whisked in, let the sauce thicken a bit and then stir in the cheese and season with salt and pepper. You should have a really nice, creamy sauce at the end of it.
Then just stir in all that lovely pasta. It might look like way too much sauce for the pasta, but once the sauce fills in all those little pasta gaps, it’ll be alright.
As a last step, just stir in the chard, taste the thing, and adjust any seasonings that you want to adjust.
Pretty straightforward stuff!
Obviously serve this up as soon as possible and pile on some of those toasted breadcrumbs!
I don’t really think like a bachelor much these days because I suckered Betsy into marrying me, but I don’t see why a bachelor couldn’t make this.
If you are a bachelor, and can make a mac and cheese like this, don’t expect to be a bachelor for long!