Älplermagronen (or Magronä, depending on your dialect) is the Swiss version of mac and cheese. Much like the differences in dialect, the dish varies from region to region and debate rages on: what sort of cheese? Apple sauce or plum compote? Fried cervelat, yes or no? (Is this really a question?) Crispy or sweet onions?
I say, the more delicious add ons, the better.
Rather than boiling the macaroni separately, it is cooked, like rice, in the exact amount of liquid required. The genius of the dish is the addition of the potatoes, which break down during cooking and form a creamy, starchy sauce.
This is Sam's recipe and he strongly suggests that you try your Älplermagronen with all possible sides: applesauce, onions, and cervelat (though any nice sausage or bacon will do).
300 g potatoes, cubed
750 ml milk
1 stock cube
300 g macaroni
250 g hard cheese, grated
pepper and nutmeg
Place your potatoes in a large pot and add water until they are just covered. Add some salt and boil, covered, for about 5 minutes.
Add macaroni and milk to the pot and stir well.
Cook for about 10 minutes. Keep an eye on the pot and if it looks like all of the liquid has dissolved, add some additional milk or water and give it a stir to make sure it isn't sticking to the bottom.
Once the pasta is cooked through, add the cheese and mix well. If you like a saucier macaroni, add a splash of milk.
fried onions, method below
apple or plum compote or applesauce (recipe below, if ambitious, or from a tin)
fried cervelat, a different sausage of your liking, or bacon
In Switzerland, you can use the traditional Älplermagrone noodles, but anywhere else regular macaroni noodles will do.
Any hard cheese can be used. Possibilities include all varieties of Alp and Bergkäse, Sbrinz, Gruyere, Asiago, Cheddar.
If you can't find cervelat, bacon is a particularly delicious substitute.
This recipe will serve about four people.
Peel, core and chop some apples (firm and slightly sour work best) and put them in a pot.
Add a little water to prevent them from sticking to the bottom.
Cook over low heat until softened. Cooking time will vary based on the type of apples you have.
Whizz with an immersion blender until smooth.
Season with a pinch or two of cinnamon or mixed spice and, if they are particularly sour, a bit of sugar.
Chop 4-5 large onions into slices.
Melt a knob of butter over medium heat. When it starts to sizzle, add the onions.
Cook for about 10-15 minutes, until the onions are translucent, then add a pinch of salt.
Slightly turn up the heat, stay nearby, and keep stirring. If they start to stick to the bottom of the pan, lower the heat slightly and continue to stir until golden, about 20 min. You can serve them like this (picture below).
Or, if you want properly caramelized onions, continue cooking for about 20-30 minutes when the onions will turn that luscious amber colour and become really sticky.