gruyere and leek macaroni and cheese with mustard breadcrumbs
 
this recipe is adapted from a grace parisi recipe for food and wine. whilst she originally calls for manchego cheese (which i adore and recommend), do this with the gruyere and never look back - the pungent nuttiness sings with the leek's gentle onion bite. she also calls to use the leek greens alone (a wonderful idea and use of a part lesser celebrated), however you will not be disappointed by using the entire leek. find a solid bunch, not too big, and slice them head to toe.
Ingredients
  • 6 tbl unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 tbl dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tsp minced fresh parsley
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 3 medium leeks, green and white parts thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
  • 16 oz elbow macaroni
  • 3 tbl all purpose flour
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 8 ounces of Gruyere cheese, shredded
Method
  1. preheat the oven to 350 degrees. lightly grease a 3 quart casserole dish. melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. once the butter begins to foam add the dijon mustard, thyme, and parsley. add the panko: it will eagerly absorb the butter and herbs. toss the breadcrumbs occasionally over medium heat, until toasted, fragrant, and golden. transfer to a small bowl.
  2. wipe out the skillet and melt 2 tablespoons of butter over high heat. add the chopped leeks and cook, stirring until wilted, about 5 minutes. reduce the heat to low and cook the leeks until tender and melted, an additional 15 minutes.
  3. prepare a large saucepan of salted, boiling water. add the macaroni and cook about 2 minutes less than what’s instructed on the box - you're looking for an al dente texture. remove the macaroni to a colander, and drain and rinse under cool water.
  4. in a large saucepan melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. add the flour and cook over medium-high heat, whisking for about 2 minutes - until golden and fragrantly nutty. add the milk and bring to a boil, whisking constantly until thickened, 5 minutes. the sauce will not be incredibly thick, but undoubtedly silky and smooth. remove sauce from the heat. add the cheese and whisk until melted into the sauce.
  5. combine macaroni, cheese sauce, and leeks - stirring well to combine. remove macaroni to the casserole dish and bake for 30 minutes, until sauce is bubbling. carefully remove, top with mustard breadcrumbs, and bake an additional 7 minutes, until toasted and golden. allow to cool 10 minutes before serving.
Recipe by the perpetual season at http://www.theperpetualseason.com/leek-macaroni-cheese/