A couple weeks ago I was able to spend a few days in upstate New York in the Finger Lakes region, traveling around a cheese factory, a 7th generation family-run dairy farm, and competed in the ultimate mac & cheese throw down–where I made my take (using locally made New York state cheeses instead of traditional Swiss) on Älpermagronen–a classic Swiss mac & cheese with potatoes, bacon and onions, and served with apple sauce. That last thing may sound crazy (or at least did to me when I was little) but trust me on this one, it’s a winning combination.
Can we acknowledge these cheese curds? This is one of the first steps in the cheese making process–after rennet has been added to milk, its cut, and the whey is separated. These can be salted and eaten just as in this state, or they are pressed into molds and aged according to the type of cheese being made.
Finished wedges at the Yancey’s Fancy factory getting ready to be packed up and shipped off to grocery stores.
Our trip to Noblehurst Farm was rainy but amazingly informative. They are a 7th generation family-run farm and milk processing facility, and leaders in compost and bio energy. They provide milk to lots of cheesemakers in the area as well as Siggi’s yogurt (yum) and amazing milk and chocolate milks made onsite.
Älpermagronen Swiss mac & cheese
- 1 lb waxy potatoes (roughly 5 or 6)
- 1 lb box elbow macaroni
- 6 rashers of bacon, cut into 1/4″ pieces (lardons)
- 2 onions
- cups grated cheese (traditionally Gruyere or Comte, but cheddar works really well too)
- milk (about 1 cup but have more in case you need to thin the cheese sauce)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2-3 tablespoons flour
- 5 medium apples (a mix of anything–gala, ginger gold, honeycrisp etc.)
- 2 teaspoons honey
- a small pinch of nutmeg
- Cook the bacon over medium low heat until turning crispy. While the lardons are cooking slice the onion. Remove the bacon from the pan and add the sliced onions to fry and caramelize in the bacon fat.
- While the onions are cooking get a large pot of water on the boil and peel the potatoes. Cut in to small cubes and add to the boiling water with the pasta. Preheat the oven to 350F.
- Remove the caramelized onions and set aside with the bacon. If the pan seems dry add the butter, or make a roux with the bacon fat by adding the flour and mixing. Cook for 2-3 minutes to cook off the raw flour taste, and then add the milk, stirring constantly to remove any lumps. Add the cheese and mix until smooth and melted. Add the nutmeg and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- When the potatoes and pasta are cooked, drain and pour into the cheese sauce. Stir well to coat and then pour into a large baking dish. Sprinkle with the bacon and onion and pop in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the cheese in bubbling and bacon is extra crispy.
Thank you to the amazing team at the American Dairy Association Northeast for hosting me on the Dairy Tour 2017, to Yancey’s Fancy cheese for sponsoring the mac & cheese throw down, and to the New York Wine & Culinary Center for hosting the cooking competition.