Cheddar Mac & Cheese with Baked Apples

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It’s That Time of The Semester. The run-up to Thanksgiving is always hectic in college-land. The grading starts to stack up, meetings are squeezed in, and everything should have happened by last Tuesday (except it’s now Monday, which means that tomorrow is Tuesday, and hopefully everyone else will just pretend that last Tuesday is really this Tuesday, so everything really have been done on time). Desperate times call for desperate measures – and large pans of mac & cheese. With cornbread crumbles. And baked apples. If I’m going to survive the 75 student conferences that I have scheduled for this upcoming week, it will be because I’m eating this for lunch. Every day.

Mac 3

Cheddar Mac & Cheese with Baked Apples
adapted from Melt

For the apples:
6 granny smith apples; peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tbs. lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 tbs. sugar

For the mac & cheese:
16 oz. elbow macaroni
3 c. milk
3 tbs. butter
3 tbs. flour
1 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
12 oz. extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated
8 oz. cheddar cheese, grated with 1 cup reserved
6 oz. smoked gruyere cheese, grated
3 cups cornbread crumbs (I made half of this recipe and crumbled the cornbread)

1. Preheat the oven to 375F.  Place the apple pieces, lemon juice, cinnamon, and sugar in a large casserole dish, and stir.  Loosely cover the dish with foil, then bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the apples are fork-tender.

2. While the apples bake, make the mac & cheese.  Boil the noodles according to the package directions, then drain.

3. While the noodles are cooking, make the cheese sauce.  Heat the milk in a small sauce pan over low heat.  While the milk is heating, make the roux.  In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the flour and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan until the roux turns a light brown.  Slowly add the milk, stirring frequently to prevent lumps.  Cook the sauce, stirring continually, until it begins to thicken, about 4 minutes.  Add the extra sharp cheddar, regular cheddar (less the reserved cup), and gruyere.  Stir until the cheeses melt into the sauce.  Stir in the thyme.

4. Add the drained noodles to the cheese sauce, stirring well.  Preheat the oven to 400 F.  At this point, you can either add the noodles to a 9×13 pan or spoon them into individual ovenproof ramekins.  Top the mac & cheese with the cornbread crumbs, then sprinkle with the reserved cheddar.  Bake the pan (or ramekins) for about 10 minutes, until the crumbs are toasted and the cheese is melted.  Top each serving with a generous spoonful of baked apples.