Turkey and Robusto Mac-and-Cheeselets

      Turkey and Robusto Mac-and-Cheeselets by Stephanie Stiavetti, Garrett McCord from their book "Melt, The Art of Macaroni & Cheese"

      One of the best things about cooking a big o l' Thanksgiving turkey is the leftovers. The carcass goes to making turkey stock, the legs are best saved for eating while watching television, and the last little bits of meat are reserved for all manner of dishes, from posole to sandwiches.

      Or, perhaps, turkey macaroni and cheese.

      Cooked in a muffin tin, these adorable individual mac-and-cheeselets are a good way to exercise portion control (assuming you eat just one or two and not, like, seven). Robusto is a Gouda-style cheese made with the cultures used for Parmesan, so it has a Gouda-like personality while maintaining the sharp nuttiness that makes Parmesan so delightful. Or you can use Gouda, Gruyere, Monterey Jack, or Swiss cheese for this recipe.

      The recipe for cranberry jam on page 156 is a festive addition to this dish, adding grace to the turkey and cheese. If you're making the mac-and-cheeselets after Thanksgiving and have leftover cranberry sauce, feel free to use that instead.

      Makes 12 to 16 mac -and -cheeselets

      8 ounces elbow macaroni

      6 ounces cooked turkey, shredded (about 1 1/4 cups)

      12 ounces Robusto, Gouda, Gruyere, Monterey Jack, or Swiss cheese, shredded, divided

      3 tablespoons chopped fresh sage

      2 eggs

      2 cups milk

      2 tablespoons olive oil

      2 tablespoons flour

      1/2 teaspoon sea salt

      Freshly ground black pepper

      1 cup cranberry sauce or cranberry jam (see below for recipe)

      1. Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain through a colander and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking process. Drain again and set aside.

      2. Once the macaroni has cooled, toss it with the turkey, 5 ounces of Robusto, and sage in a bowl and set aside. In another bowl, whisk the eggs and set aside.

      3. Preheat oven to 375F. To prepare the mornay sauce, heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. As soon as the milk starts to steam and tiny bubbles form around the edges of the pan, turn off the heat. Place the olive oil in a medium saucepan and heat over medium flame. Add the flour and stir with a flat-edge wooden paddle just until the roux begins to take on a light brown color, scraping the bottom to prevent burning, about 3 minutes. Slowly add the milk and stir constantly until the sauce thickens enough to evenly coat the back of a spoona finger drawn along the back of the spoon should leave a clear swath. Remove from heat and stir in salt and pepper. Add 5 ounces of the remaining Robusto to sauce, reserving 2 ounces, and stir until completely melted.

      4. Temper the eggs by slowly pouring 1/4 cup of the mornay sauce into the bowl with the eggs while whisking continually. Once combined, add the eggs to the rest of the mornay and whisk together. Carefully fold the pasta into the mornay sauce.

      5. Spoon macaroni and cheese into the cups of a well-greased muffin tin. Two or three good spoonfuls per cheeselet should be fine, and they shouldn't be too heaping big. Level with the pan is just enough. Top each with some of the remaining Robusto and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the tops are slightly golden brown. Cool for 3 minutes and serve with a few spoonfuls of cranberry jam.

      Cranberry Jam

      1/2 cup water

      1 cup sugar

      1/2 cup orange juice

      12 ounces whole fresh cranberries (if using frozen, defrost first)

      1 teaspoon vanilla extract

      1/4 teaspoon butter

      Place the water, sugar, and orange juice in a pot and bring to a boil. Add the cranberries, vanilla extract, and butter. Cook for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened up a bit. Serve hot, warm, or cold.

      Alternative cheeses: Marieke Gouda, Willamette Valley Aged Gouda, Branched Oak Nettle Gouda, any excellent Dutch goat's-milk Gouda, Emmentaler, Gruyre

      Wine pairings: Viognier, Rhne Valley white blends, ros, Gamay, Pinot Noir

      Additional pairings for the cheese: fenugreek, smoked country ham