Last September, I wrote about the colorful round mini-cocottes from Le Creuset that we carry at The Chopping Block. Like ramekins, mini-cocottes are perfect for cooking individual portions, but you can also use them to hold spices and seasonings, for dipping sauces or to serve small candies and nuts. In my post, I mentioned some of my favorite dishes to cook, and we’ve had so many requests for the recipes! So, dear reader, this post is just for you.
Let’s start with a simple, delicious dish that should be a staple in every cook’s repertoire – Mac & Cheese. Not only is this super easy to prepare, but you can customize the ingredients to make it basic or fancy. This recipe will yield four (4) ½ cup servings and takes less than an hour from start to finish.
Mac and Cheese
- ½ pound short pasta (elbow macaroni is traditional, but you can substitute small shells)
- 2 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 2 ½ cups milk
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- ¾ pound shredded Gruyere cheese (you can substitute white or yellow Cheddar)
- ½ cup panko bread crumbs (if you don’t have panko, you can substitute grated toasted French bread)
- ¼ pound (approx. 4 strips) thick-cut hickory-smoked bacon
1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Use ½ tablespoon butter to lightly coat the inside of each mini-cocotte. You don’t need to butter the lid and you can set them aside until it’s time to serve. Tip: Don’t use non-stick cooking spray for this – you want the creamy, rich taste of real butter in this dish.
2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente, about 7 minutes. Drain, toss with a splash of oil to prevent sticking and place in a large bowl. Tip: You can use any mild oil like vegetable, canola or grapeseed.
3. To make the sauce, heat a saucepan over medium heat, and add the rest of the butter. Once melted, whisk in the flour to make a roux and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes. Add the nutmeg and cook for an additional minute.
4. Gradually whisk in the milk. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook on low heat for about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Tip: Keep in mind you’ll be adding bacon later so go easy on the salt.
5. Remove the sauce from heat and stir in 2/3 of the cheese until melted.
6. Pour the sauce over the pasta and mix well. Spoon the mixture into the prepared dishes, and top with the remaining cheese and bread crumbs.
7. Place the four dishes on a quarter sheet pan.
8. Line a separate quarter sheet pan with parchment paper and lay the bacon strips in a single layer.
9. Place both sheet pans on the center rack and bake until the mac & cheese is golden and bubbly, about 30-40 minutes, and the bacon is crispy. Remove the bacon strips from the oven and pat dry between paper towels to remove excess fat. Tip: Save excess bacon fat in a small glass mason jar – you can use it next time to coat the dish instead of butter for extra bacon flavor.
10. Crumble the bacon and top each dish with a generous sprinkle, or gently stir the bacon into each dish. Cover the dish with the lid to keep it warm, and uncover as you serve.
Le Creuset oval and round mini cocottes filled with Mac & Cheese (we carry the round shape at The Chopping Block)
- Top with sautéed mushrooms, chopped broccoli, fried leek straw or crispy pancetta instead of bacon.
About Le Creuset round mini-cocottes:
- Safe for freezer, microwave, broiler, oven (max. 500°F / 260°C) and dishwasher
- Dense stoneware maintains even temperature and blocks moisture absorption to prevent cracking, crazing and rippling
- Exterior enamel resists scratches and stains
- Dimensions: 2” H x 5 ¼” W
- Capacity: 8 fluid ounces
Learn more cooking tips at one of our upcoming classes at The Chopping Block. And be sure to stop in and see our newest collection of Le Creuset round mini-cocottes in a variety of colors.
Let me know what else you’d like to learn to cook in a mini-cocotte in the comments, and you might see your recipe in an upcoming blog post!