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Farmhouse Mac and Cheese

Chef Kieron Hales | April 23, 2021

Who doesn’t love the comfort of a big bowl of mac and cheese? This recipe is a variation on the macaroni and cheese that Chef Kieron Hales made as the executive chef at Zingerman’s Roadhouse. The dish earned “Best Comfort Food in America” by Alton Brown’s show America’s Best on Food Network, and it’s a fun take on an American classic to try with your family. Hales likes to top the dish with a crispy topping that contrasts the creamy mac and cheese with a bit of crunch and spice.

Prep Time
25 minutes
Cook Time
1 hour
Cook it With Our
Farmhouse Mac and Cheese Recipe


  • ¾ cup full fat milk
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • ¼ white onion, skin on, roughly chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne
  • ¼ nutmeg, grated
  • 2 parley stems
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 black peppercorns, whole
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
Macaroni & Cheese
  • ½ pound dried macaroni
  • 7 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 3 cups grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 pint béchamel
  • coarse sea salt for finishing
Crispy Bits Topping
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon mustard powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 cups vegetable oil
  • kosher salt for seasoning



  1. Place the milk, cream, white onion, bay leaf, cloves, garlic, cayenne, nutmeg, parsley stems, kosher salt, black peppercorns into a heavy bottom small pan, about 1.5 quart, and bring to a simmer. Then pour the mixture into the glass ball jar, add the lid and allow it to sit for 20-30 minutes.
  2. Strain the milk into a medium bowl.
  3. In the same small pan melt the butter over medium-high heat (be careful not to scorch the butter).
  4. Add the flour and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon for about 1-2 minutes.
  5. Slowly add the milk, about a 1⁄4 cup, and stir constantly to avoid lumping. As the mixture recombines and is bubbling, add the next 1⁄4 cup and repeat until all the milk mixture has been incorporated.
  6. Once the last amount of milk mixture has been incorporated add the mustard, keep the mixture on a low heat and gently simmer (not at a high boil) until it thickens, 2-3 minutes. 

Macaroni & Cheese

  1. Bring a large pot of 5 quarts of water to a boil.
  2. Add 6 teaspoons of salt and the pasta to the boiling water and stir well. Cook for about 13 minutes, or until the pasta is done, it should be a little firm. Drain pasta and set it aside on a sheet tray.
  3. In a heavy bottom skillet over medium-high heat (get the pan very hot) add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt to the pan and wait until it begins to smoke.
  4. Add all the grated parmesan cheese and 1⁄3 of the grated cheddar over the bottom of the pan. Wait about 20-30 seconds, then add the bechamel and spread so that the cheese is evenly covered.
  5. Add the rest of the cheddar and all of the pasta to the pan.
  6. Using a wide burger flipper/metal spatula toss thoroughly. Allow to reset in the pan for 1 minute then toss again.
  7. Continue until you have approximately a quarter of the mixture golden brown.
  8. Taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary.
  9. Transfer to an Enameled Cast Iron Covered Casserole dish to retain heat or serve immediately.

Crispy Bits Topping

  1. Place the all purpose flour, onion powder, garlic powder, mustard powder, cayenne pepper, kosher salt, ground black pepper in a medium sized bowl and make a well in the center.
  2. Add the heavy cream.
  3. Mix with the teaspoon and your hand until a dough is formed.
  4. Allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes.
  5. Place a deep, heavy cast iron pan onto the stove over medium to high heat.
  6. Add the 2 cups of vegetable oil.
  7. Wait for around 4 minutes until the oil is hot, about 320 degrees F.
  8. Gently crumble the dough in the oil dropping away from you. 
  9. Fry for 1-2 minutes until golden. Try using a splatter screen to protect from the hot oil. 
  10. Remove and place on a strainer or some paper towel and season with salt.

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Contributed By: Chef Kieron Hales

Kieron Hales is Founding Partner and Executive Chef at Zingerman's Cornman farms.


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