giovedì 21 febbraio 2013

Baked macaroni "Cordon Bleu"

I realize that to put the words "Cordon Bleu" in the title of this dish was a little foolish.  The day that I invented this recipe, I was in the mood for the flavors and textures of the popular "French" dish — a dish of Swiss ancestry that became popular in America in the 1960s!  Nonetheless, the trio of poultry, ham, and Swiss, the creamy interior, the crunchy breadcrumb exterior, and the aromatic Herbes de Provence make a wonderful dish that people of all ages enjoy. 


1 lb casserole elbows (i.e., elbows with lines. You can also use cavatappi or shells with lines.)
4 oz. sliced Swiss cheese*, cut in little squares
4 oz. sliced ham, cut in little squares
4 oz. sliced turkey breast, cut in little squares
1 pint heavy cream
homemade breadcrumbs
freshly-ground black pepper
freshly-ground nutmeg
fresh grating cheese (pecorino, parmigiano, and/or grana padano)
fresh Herbes de Provence**

* = At American delis and supermarkets, "Swiss cheese" is usually a type of Emmentaler. Gruyère is also possible for this recipe.

** = The dried Herbes de Provence that you find in the supermarket are a misnomer.  In the Provence, a cook chooses fresh herbs from the garden or from the fields.  There is no predetermined mixture.  In effect, the Herbes de Provence are simply those herbs which grow easily in that region: thyme, serpolet (wild thyme), marjoram, oregano, rosemary, basil, chervil, tarragon, lovage, savory, sage, bay leaves, mint, fennel seeds.  Simply choose 2 or 3 or 4 of those that you like and that are fresh. 


Ahead of time, make the breadcrumbs: In a food processor, put hard bread, the Herbes de Provence that you've chosen, and a garlic clove if you'd like.  (Instead of the clove, I use a few scapes.) 

In a dish, mix the breadcrumbs, salt, half the pepper, and some grating cheese. In a large pan, boil the pasta, subtracting one minute from the normal cooking time. With butter, grease a rectangular oven pan, 8 x 12 x 2. While the pasta is cooking, in a large bowl combine the cream, cold cuts, some grating cheese, the rest of the pepper, and the nutmeg. When the pasta is finished, add it to this bowl and stir well.  Pour the contents of the bowl into the greased pan. Cover with the breadcrumb mixture. Add a sprinkling of grating cheese on top.  Dab with butter.

Bake uncovered at 375º for 20-25 minutes, until the cream starts to bubble and the breadcrumbs are golden.

Note that the inside of this dish will not be solid, as if there were eggs or flour. The inside will be creamy, while the top will be a little crunchy. It is fantastic!

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