Two of our go-to winter dishes (or anytime dishes, really) are mac and cheese and ramen, so when we discovered a recipe that combined these two favorites, we nearly lost our minds. The to-die-for Ramen Mac and Cheese was created by David Malbequi, co-owner and executive chef of the recently opened David’s Café in N.Y.C.’s East Village. The eatery combines Malbequi’s passions for American fare and French food (his past experience includes a prestigious position at renowned N.Y.C.-based restaurant Daniel Boulud).
"One of the most American dishes I've come to love since leaving France for New York in 1999 is mac and cheese,” says the French-born Malbequi. “The combination of rich and sharp cheese with tender pasta and cream, among any number of things you can toss in, just speaks to me."
So when David's Café opened in late 2015, Malbequi knew he wanted to have a mac and cheese option on the menu. "We seemed to be in the year of ramen, with ramen shops opening up on practically every corner, so I figured the only way to up the ante was to utilize delicious ramen noodles over the traditional Italian style pasta,” he says. Try the recipe below.
Ramen Mac and Cheese
4 tbsp unsalted butter
5 shallots, sliced
6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 bay leaf
4 sprigs thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup white wine
4 cups heavy cream
2 tbsp flour
11 oz whole milk
1½ lb ramen noodles
1¼ cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup Panko bread
1. First assemble the sauce. Place a small sauce pot on medium heat and add 2 tbsp butter, shallots, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, salt, and pepper (to taste) and cook for 3 minute. Deglaze the pan with the white wine and reduce for 5 minutes to cook off the alcohol in the wine. Then add the heavy cream and cook until you get a creamy sauce. Remove from heat and let cool (an ice bath is recommended). Make sure to remove the bay leaf.
2. Meanwhile, assemble the béchamel by bringing a saucepan to medium heat, melt remaining 2 tbsp butter, add flour, and cook for a minute until it forms a paste. Whisk in milk to avoid lumps and season with nutmeg and salt and pepper. Let this continue to cook and reduce until a thick sauce is formed. Set aside and cool.
3. Cook the noodles in boiling, salted water until tender, and drain and cool. In a mixing bowl, combine the noodles, sauce, shredded cheese, and the béchamel and season to taste. You can dish this into a large casserole dish or into individual ramekins.
4. Preheat your oven to 375°F (convection if available). Top the dish(es) with panko breadcrumbs and cook for 10 minutes approximately until brown and bubbly.
Recommended garnishes include toasting the panko in garlic brown butter and topping with chives.