Makes two small casseroles or one large one.
· 1 pound of macaroni, simmered till al dente in 1 gallon salted water, drained
· 1 large onion, as big as a man's fist, diced into large chunks
· 8oz smoked ham steak, diced into ½ inch pieces
· 6ozs of extra sharp cheddar cheese, sliced into small chunks
· 8ozs of regular cheddar cheese, sliced into small chunks
· 6ozs of grated white cheddar for topping the dish
· 1 cup of half and half
· 2 cups of whole milk
· ¼ pound of butter (for roux)
extra butter for cooking the ham and onion
· 3 Tablespoons of flour
· 2 Tablespoons of kosher salt
· 1 Tablespoon of fresh ground pepper
· 1 Tablespoon dried minced garlic
· 1 Tablespoon dried parsley
· 1/8 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
· A dash of Crystal hot sauce (or two) to taste
Sautee the diced onions in some of the butter till sweet and caramelized. Set aside in a large bowl. In the same pan, add more butter, and then brown the diced smoked ham till it just gets crispy on the edges. Add the ham to the onions in the bowl.
In a heavy saucepan, make the sauce by first melting ¼ pound of butter over high heat, stirring with a whisk as it heats. As soon it just begins to brown, add the flour and stir constantly. Once the flour smells ‘nutty’, add the half and half, then most of the milk. (Reserve some milk for adjustment if needed). Stir constantly on high heat till the milk thickens and starts to bubble. At once, add ¾ the chunked cheeses and continue stirring. From the point the flour is added to the sauce, it must be stirred constantly till finished, or removed from the heat. As soon as the cheese is melted, add the salt, pepper, garlic, nutmeg, parsley, and hot sauce. Remove from heat and stir till the sauce stops bubbling and is very smooth.
In the large bowl holding the onions and ham, add the macaroni and about half the sauce.
Mix enough to break up any clumps of pasta and distribute the onions and ham through the mixture. Pour into a large, deep, baking dish leaving enough room for topping and a lid.
Sprinkle a heavy layer of shredded cheddar on top of the pasta mix, and then pour in the remaining sauce to just below the dishes rim.
Cover and bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Then remove the lid and bake another 15 minutes, or until the cheese browns on top of the casserole. Remove from the oven, cover, and allow to rest at least 20 minutes before eating.