Selective Memory & Alpine Mac & Cheese

The local schools are closed for winter break. It’s time to ski! When it comes to family ski vacations, I admit it – I have selective memory. The snow was always perfect. In fact, it snowed every night. Come morning, the sun always shone and the slopes were perfectly groomed. The dog, who loved to roll in the snow, had a brilliant shiny coat. At the end of a long ski day, we were too tired to squabble and the house was a model of peace and harmony.

Except for the part about the dog, none of the above is actually true. Or at least, they are only partially true. While February is a very good month for all those S-sports – skiing, sledding, skating and snowshoeing – I’m sure we had a few rocky vacations. And by rocky, I mean it literally – as in not enough snow to cover the rocks on the ski hill. I’m just as certain that my sister and I never went a full week without a spat; particularly when we were teenagers. (Of course, it was never my fault.)

The truth of the matter, hard as I try, I can’t remember a single February vacation without snow. Instead I remember happy days clambering around on skis. The late afternoons and evenings were just as happy. These hours were spent twirling on skates, jumping off the deck and flying down the hill across the road on our sleds.

Speaking of skates, there was that one time when my brother fell through the ice on the frog pond. He was maybe six. It was probably during February vacation. Although scary, it’s not a terribly traumatic story. As far as I know, John hasn’t suffered any lasting physical or psychic damage. Even for a little boy, the pond is probably only about chest deep. No, the story made a lasting impression because it was so well told.

A neighbor passed by at just the right moment and threw John in the back of her station wagon and hurried him home. With wide eyes and more than an ounce of gratitude, John shared the tale of his rescue. One of the neighborhood teenagers had raced across the little pond with his hockey stick and pulled him out of the icy water. From the telling, you’d have guessed that the skater was about to join the Boston Bruins or the Olympic speed skating team.

A few years later, that same brother (I have only one) broke his leg during winter vacation. It was in Colorado – our first family trip outside of the northeast. The snow really was magnificent and it really did snow every night. Thank goodness John waited until the very end of the week.

On the last run of a wonderful day on the slopes, John caught an edge and took a tumble. He was carted down the mountain on a sled and the rest of the family followed. At the bottom, Mom and Dad hopped into the ambulance with him … leaving me with four pairs of skis to lug back to the condo. If it wasn’t for lugging, I suppose I might have forgotten the whole thing.

So yes, when it comes to family ski vacations, I have selective memory. The snow was always perfect. Any injuries were minor. The one or two that required hospitalization left no scar. Instead, they added another interesting chapter to family lore.

Local kids are off from school this week. Have a blast and bon appétit!

Alpine Mac & Cheese
This recipe shows you what happens when America’s favorite comfort food spends winter break in the Swiss Alps. Enjoy!
Serves 8-12

Butter for the pan
8 ounces thick cut bacon, chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1-2 tablespoons kirsch* (optional)
4 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups whole milk or half and half
1 pound your favorite short pasta – penne, rigatoni, bowties …
8 ounces Gruyere cheese, shredded
8 ounces Emmental cheese, shredded
2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon herbs de Provence
1 tablespoon melted butter or olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly butter a large casserole.

Heat a skillet over medium, add the bacon and cook, stirring frequently until lightly browned. Remove the bacon from the pan, drain and reserve.

Drain the excess fat from the pan, add the onion, sprinkle with thyme, paprika and nutmeg, season with salt and pepper and sauté until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes more. Add the wine and simmer until almost dry. Remove from the heat and stir in the kirsch.

Put the cream cheese in a large bowl, add the sour cream and mustard and stir or beat with an electric mixer until smooth.

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour, season with salt and pepper and cook, whisking, for 1-2 minutes. Whisking constantly, add the milk and heat to steaming over medium. Reduce the heat to low and cook, whisking, until the sauce thickens. A little at a time, stir the warm sauce into the cream cheese mixture. Add the bacon and onion and stir to combine.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions, less 1 minute. Drain the pasta, saving a little of the pasta water.

Combine the pasta and sauce and toss to combine. If the pasta seems dry, add a little pasta water. Sprinkle the pasta with the Gruyere, Emmental and half of the Parmigiano-Reggiano and toss again. Transfer the pasta to the prepared baking dish.

Put the breadcrumbs and herbs in a bowl, add the melted butter and toss to combine. Add the remaining the Parmigiano-Reggiano and toss again. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top of the mac & cheese.

You can make ahead to this point, cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate. Remove the dish from the refrigerator about 1 hour before baking.

Bake the mac & cheese at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until piping hot and golden.

* About Kirsch – A spirit made from cherries, traditional cheese fondue recipes add a shot of kirsch just before serving.

Print-friendly version of this recipe.

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Three Years Ago – Flourless Chocolate Cake
Four Years Ago – Lemon Roasted Chicken Thighs
Five Years Ago – Panna Cotta with Strawberries
Six Years Ago – Decadent Mac & Cheese
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Eight Years Ago – Creole Shrimp & Cheesy Grits
Nine Years Ago – White Bean Dip
Ten Years Ago – Warm Chocolate Pudding

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What are your favorite winter vacation memories? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2019

2 thoughts on “Selective Memory & Alpine Mac & Cheese

  1. I made my first Alpine Mac & Cheese this past week-it definitely won’t be my last. It was delicious! My sister in law Katie introduced me to your blog when she came to San Diego last month. I can’t wait to try more recipes!


    • Elizabeth – thanks so much for stopping by. I think Katie has become my biggest promoter! She’s also an amazing yoga teacher. Enjoy the Mac and Cheese and more. Take care – Susan


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