Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Croque Monsiuer Mac and Cheese

Last night J and I made our first recipe out of our new cookbook, Food Network Magazine's Great Easy Meals, using some of the hot ham left over from our Easter dinner.

Hot ham is our signature dish come Easter time.  The recipe has been in my maternal grandfather's family for over one hundred years and dates back to the days they lived in Kentucky in the mid to late 1800s.  Basically, you create slits in the top of a fully baked, bone in ham (spiral cut would not work) which you then stuff with dried red chili peppers (also called chili de arbol--hence the "hot" in hot ham), fresh spinach and the white tips of green onions.  After you stuff the ham, you wrap it in cheese cloth to keep the stuffing inside and boil it for a few hours to cook the spinach and green onion.  Right before serving you bake it for about an hour to reheat the ham and crisp the skin.  When it comes time to serve, people can opt for some of the stuffing if they like things spicy or leave it off to enjoy a flavorful ham with just a little kick.

I apologize for the quality of this photo--J took it from his phone because I left my camera at home!
The hot ham is perfect for this recipe although any type of ham would suffice.  We also used smoked Gruyere cheese to bring out the smokiness of the entire dish. 

Croque Monsiuer Mac and Cheese, modified from Food Network Magazine's Great Easy Meals cookbook

1/2 pound ziti--we used elbow macaroni because that's what we had on hand
2 cups fat free milk
2 cups coarsely grated Gruyere cheese (about 6 ounces)--because we were using smoked Gruyere, we used one cup of Gruyere and one cup of plain Swiss cheese.  This is also a cheaper option since Swiss is such an inexpensive cheese
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 4 ounces)
2 large eggs
3 slices white sandwich bread, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons butter, plus more for greasing
1 medium onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
8 ounces cooked ham
3 cups fresh spinach--we added this to the recipe for a little green and to use up what we had on hand before it went bad!

Kitchen Supplies:
Large stockpot for pasta
Cutting board
Box or hand grater for cheese
Small saucepan
Measuring cups
One large bowl
One medium bowl
2 quart glass baking dish

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Bring a large pot of water to boil, add salt and pasta cooking until al dente (six minutes for ziti, eleven minutes for elbow macaroni).  Drain and transfer back to stockpot, tossing with 1/4 cup of milk to keep it from gumming up.

Meanwhile combine cheeses in a bowl.   Beat 1/4 cup of milk and 2 eggs in another bowl; fold in bread and toss with half of the cheese mixture.

Next, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in the saucepan over high heat and saute garlic and onion for two to three minutes until they start to brown.  Add flour, cayenne pepper, nutmeg and salt; cook, stirring about 2 minutes.  Slowly add 3/4 cup of water and the remaining 1 1/2 cups of milk; bring to a boil, stirring until thickened.  Remove from heat and whisk slightly to cool.  Whisk in remaining cheese then add the mixture to the pasta in the stockpot, tossing to combine.

In a buttered glass baking dish, pour half of the pasta mixture followed by half of the ham and all of the spinach.  Top this with the remaining pasta before pouring the bread and cheese mixture on top of it all.  Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown and bubbly.  Let rest a few minutes before serving.

 Serves: 4

This was a delicious recipe and I am looking forward to eating the leftovers for lunch today!

Also because I haven't shared any Woods' photos in a while, here are a few I snapped yesterday.  The first is a picture of his new "bed" next to ours.  I like to think of it as a trundle bed of sorts, one that allows J, Woods and I to sleep better because Woods is no longer hogging half of our full size bed.  We will see how long this phase lasts!

The next is of Woods while we were making dinner.  He is not allowed on our table and he knows it, hence the guilty look on his face when I caught him in the act!

Let's talk holiday food!  What type of protein do you usually have for holiday meals?  Ham? Turkey? Roast beef? 


  1. My family usually has ham, because that's what my dad likes! But I've been a vegetarian for a long time, so my mom always makes sure to have lots of "side dishes" that I can eat :) She even makes me my own dish of stuffing without sausage!

  2. Maddie knows shes not supposed to be on the table but does it anyways too. They are def quite a pair =) lil trouble-making cuties!

    Happy WIAW love! =)

    Jenn @ Peas & Crayons

  3. what an amazing concoction! I'm in awe of your abilities

  4. That last picture of Woods cracked me up!Thanks for the kind comment yesterday! Things are looking a thousand times better today! :)

  5. I'm a huge turkey fan. But next holiday, with that awesome menu ya'll had, I am coming to your place. Looks amazing!!

  6. @ iheartvegetables: Yum! My sister is a sometimes vegetarian (this trip she ate ham) so we usually have lots of side dishes too just in case :)

    @ Melissa: Thanks! It's really easy and delicious!

    @ Jenn: They are trouble makers but so worth it :)

    @ Fashion Meets Food: Thanks! I am having leftovers again today!

    @ Katherine: Aww thanks! It's easier than it looks :)

    @ ...and that's a true story: So glad to hear it!

    @ Every Little Thing: I love it. Definitely making it again sometime!

    @ TexaGermaNadian: You are welcome anytime :)


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