Mac and cheese is one of those universally loved dishes that takes to slight tweaks and additions beautifully. Think of how many different mac and cheese incarnations you’ve encountered on restaurant menus. From brisket to lobster it seems almost anything can find a home in a bowl of mac and cheese. Today I gave those cozy accommodations to the dill pickle. If you grew up on Dill Pickle potato chips, I’m willing to bet you’re on board with this little number. This Dill Pickle Mac and Cheese contains tender pasta coated in a cheddar and havarti cheese sauce studded with minced dill pickles, sautéed shallots, peas, and fresh dill. The casserole is topped with yet more cheese, pickle slices, and crushed dill pickle chips. If this dish seems like a little much that’s because it is. So let’s make it.
This dish starts with shallots. If shallots aren’t in your arsenal, you can sub a yellow onion. I like to use shallots because I think they have a more complex flavor. Something akin to onion and garlic married together. So if you’re using an onion instead, you may want to consider adding a clove or two of garlic to your opening aromatics. Once you’ve selected your alliums, heat a little olive oil in a skillet. When the oil is shimmering, add the shallots or onion along with a generous pinch of salt. Sauté until they are just translucent. Remove the shallots from the pan. We want a clean cooking surface on which to build our roux.
Building a roux is one of those cooking fundamentals I think everyone should know. A roux has so many applications. It adds body to sauces, thickens soups and gravies, and is the opening step for four out of five of the French mother sauces. A roux is a big deal but it’s also not complicated.
To make a roux all you have to do is pop equal parts fat and flour in a pan. In this case, we’re using butter. Whisk the flour and melted butter together to form a paste. Slowly whisk in liquid to form a sauce. You want to slowly whisk the liquid in so the sauce is smooth and not clumpy. For this recipe, we’re using milk and a little dry vermouth. If we used stock it would be a veloute or espagnole depending on whether you’re using a dark or light stock. But since we’re using milk, this is a bechamel. But it won’t be a bechamel for long.
Simmer the sauce for a bit just to encourage it to thicken further. Now it’s time to add the cheese. And by adding the cheese, the sauce becomes a mornay sauce, basically French for cheese sauce. Mornay is not considered a mother sauce, by the way, because it’s essentially an enriched bechamel. But I digress. Pop the cheese in the sauce and stir until the cheese melts. I like to amp up the sauce with a heaping tablespoon of Dijon mustard. I find it enhances the cheese flavor even more.
Now, it’s time to add the namesake of this Dill Pickle Mac and Cheese – the dill pickle. I minced my pickles to ensure a little that the pickle flavor was evenly dispersed throughout the dish. If you prefer your pickle pieces to be chunkier, more power to you. Return the shallots to the pan and add some frozen peas and fresh dill. Stir to combine and add your pasta. Because we’re baking this mac and cheese, I recommend cooking your pasta a little less. Ordinarily, we would shoot for al dente but in this instance I want you to shoot for just under that. The pasta will continue to cook in the oven.
Transfer the mac and cheese to a greased gratin dish and cover it with more cheese. If cheese is in the title of a dish you best not skimp on it. Cover the cheese with dill pickle slices because again, it’s in the title. And finally, crush up some dill pickle chips for that extra crunch and vinegary hit. Bake in a 350° F oven until golden and bubbly and garnish with fresh dill or if you’re a panicky food stylist like me garnish with fresh dill and a blanket of edible flowers. Why is all the tastiest food brown?
So that’s everything you need to know about this Dill Pickle Mac and Cheese. This dish is comfort personified and I promise it will see you through even the most dismal of rainy spring days.
Dill Pickle Mac and Cheese
- 1 Large pot
- 1 Large skillet
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 4 shallots halved and sliced
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter
- 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
- ⅓ cup dry vermouth
- 2 cups milk I used 1%
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard heaping
- 200g (7oz) havarti shredded, divided
- 100g (3.5oz) sharp cheddar shredded, divided
- 5 dill pickles minced
- 1 cup frozen peas
- ¼ cup fresh dill chopped
- 227g (8oz) uncooked short pasta I used mafalda
- 12-16 pickle slices
- ½ cup dill pickle chips crushed
- additional fresh dill for sprinkling
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a gratin dish with butter and set it aside. Fill a large pot with water and place it over high heat. Bring it up to a boil.
- While waiting for the water to boil get started on the sauce. Pour the olive oil into a large deep skillet and place it over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering add the shallots and a large pinch of salt. Sauté until the shallots are just translucent. About 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, take the shallots out of the skillet and transfer them to a bowl. Set them aside.2 tbsp olive oil, 4 shallots
- Place the butter in the skillet. Once the butter melts, whisk in the flour. Slowly whisk in the vermouth followed by the milk. Let the sauce simmer and thicken slightly. This should take about 5 minutes.3 tbsp unsalted butter, 3 tbsp all-purpose flour, ⅓ cup dry vermouth, 2 cups milk
- Add the mustard, and 2/3 of the havarti and cheddar to the sauce. Stir until the cheese melts. Add the pickles, peas, and fresh dill. Stir and continue to cook until heated through. Taste and season with salt accordingly. ** Keep the sauce warm.1 tbsp Dijon mustard, 200g (7oz) havarti, 100g (3.5oz) sharp cheddar, 5 dill pickles, 1 cup frozen peas, ¼ cup fresh dill
- Your water should be boiling by now. Generously salt the water and add the pasta. Cook the pasta until almost al dente. Drain the pasta and add it to the cheese sauce. Toss to coat.227g (8oz) uncooked short pasta
- Pour the pasta into the prepared casserole dish and top with the remaining cheese, pickle slices, and the potato chips. Place the casserole dish in the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese is nice and bubbly. Let stand for 10 minutes prior to serving. Garnish with dill and scoop into bowls.12-16 pickle slices, ½ cup dill pickle chips, additional fresh dill