While this dish is easily recognizable as one of the most popular comfort foods around, it also featured a local beauty: collard greens from Babe and Sage Farm. Collards are high in nutritional value, giving some much-needed vitamins and minerals to this decadent dish. Don’t worry, though: you’ve still got plenty of gruyere and white cheddar to satisfy your cheesy, ooey gooey needs.
I’m so proud of this dish, and I hope you’ll try it yourself by picking up the recipe card and ingredient box at Ocmulgee Traders this week.
Mac ‘n Cheese ‘n Collards
Serves 4, generously
8 oz. collard greens (Babe and Sage Farm)
1 stem of green garlic (Babe and Sage Farm)
8 oz. sharp cheddar
4 oz. gruyere
2.5 cups whole milk
4 Tbsp. butter
3 pieces of bread (rolls or slices)
8 oz. elbow macaroni
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
What You Need at Home:
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper
1 medium pot
1 small pan
1 large, deep pan
8×8 baking dish
STEP 1: Assemble Ingredients
Read over each step to familiarize yourself with the process of the meal. Heat oven to 375 F. Fill the medium pot with water halfway and bring to a boil. Add 1/2 tsp. salt and the macaroni, cook for five minutes (to al dente), then drain the pasta, rinse with cold water, and set aside.
STEP 2: Shred the Cheese
Using a box grater, shred the blocks of cheese on the large shred side.
STEP 3: Prep and Cook the Garlic and Greens
Cut the stem and bottom off the garlic, peel it, then mince it. Slice each collard leaf into 1/2 inch ribbons, removing the stems as you slice. Heat olive oil, garlic, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper over medium-high heat in a small pan. After about 1 minute, add the collard ribbons in batches, about 1/4 at a time, tossing with tongs. Once the last batch is added, toss for about 1 more minute, then remove from the heat and set aside. Collards should be slightly wilted, but should still retain some structure.
STEP 4: Prep Breadcrumbs
Melt 1 Tbsp. butter in a small bowl in the microwave (about 40 seconds on high). Using your hands, tear the bread into small pieces, then mix with the butter, adding 1/4 tsp. salt, until all of the butter is absorbed in the bread.
STEP 5: Create the Sauce, Assemble the Dish, and Bake
In the medium pot you used for the macaroni, add the milk and heat over medium heat. Heat 3 Tbsp. butter in the large pan at medium heat. When it begins to bubble, slowly whisk in the flour; this creates the roux for the sauce. When the flour and butter are combined into a paste, slowly whisk in the warmed milk, taking care that the roux gets absorbed into the milk. Keep whisking until the thickened liquid begins to bubble slightly, then add in the nutmeg, cayenne, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Whisk, then add in the macaroni and sauteed greens. Whisk until fully combined, then pour contents into the 8×8 baking dish. Top evenly with the buttered breadcrumbs, then bake for 20 minutes.
STEP 6: Cool and Serve
When the dish has baked for 20 minutes, the edges should bubble and the breadcrumbs should turn golden brown. Take the dish out of the oven and let rest on the counter for about 5 minutes. This dish serves 4-6 comfortably as a main dish, so dip up as much as you like and keep the rest for lunch tomorrow.