3/4pound kale, stems cut from leaves (about 5 ½ cups)
8ounces elbow macaroni
1/2ounce (1/2 cup) dried porcini, rinsed
3tablespoons olive oil
4cloves garlic, rinsed
3/4pound cremini mushrooms, halved and thinly sliced
1/4teaspoon dried thyme
1/4teaspoon rubbed sage
1/4cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2teaspoons sweet smoked paprika
2 ½cups (10 ounces) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
2tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2cup panko bread crumbs
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the kale for 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the kale to a colander (keep the pot of cooking water at a boil). Run the kale under cold water to stop the cooking and then drain and squeeze out any liquid. Coarsely chop.
Add the macaroni to the boiling kale-cooking water and cook according to package directions. Drain.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the dried porcini with 1 cup warm water. Let stand until the mushrooms have softened, about 20 minutes. With your fingers, lift the mushrooms from their soaking liquid, leaving the grit behind. Line a fine-mesh sieve with paper towels, a paper coffee filter, or cheesecloth. Pour the mushroom-soaking liquid through the sieve into a bowl. Reserve the liquid. Coarsely chop the mushrooms.
Preheat the oven to 350F.
In a 5-quart Dutch oven or other large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 2 minutes. Add the porcini and cremini mushrooms, thyme, and sage and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have wilted and released their juices, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the flour and cook for 2 minutes. Add the mushroom-soaking liquid, milk, paprika, and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese until melted. Add the macaroni and kale and toss to coat.Transfer the mixture to a 9 x 13-inch glass baking dish or individual ramekins.In a small skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the panko and
Toss to coat. Scatter the butter crumbs over the mac and cheese. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling and the top is crunchy and golden brown.
• Swap in another green for the kale, such as escarole, or even cooked chopped broccoli.
• Use Gruyère instead of Cheddar. For an extra kick, add 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper and 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard to the white sauce. Instead of buttered bread crumbs, top the casserole with crushed potato chips.
• Instead of making a large mac and cheese, separate the mixture into two 9 x 9-inch pans and freeze one, unbaked and well wrapped, for a later date. You can bake the frozen mac and cheese straight from the freezer; it should take about 45 minutes.