From a family farm, a taste of Thanksgiving

By Trust for Public Land
Published November 23, 2015

From a family farm, a taste of Thanksgiving

When we gather around the table with our loved ones this Thanksgiving, we'll be sharing a success story—and a delicious dish!—from a New England farm where your support has made a big difference this year. 

Last year, we told you about our work to save Robie Farm, a small dairy in Piermont, New Hampshire, that’s been owned and operated by the same family for more than a century. We're happy to report that earlier this month, we completed the conservation easement to permanently protect the property—safeguarding almost a mile of Connecticut River shoreline while boosting the Robie family’s efforts to expand cheese production and connect visitors to the land and river. 

“We’ve seen too many families lose their their farms,” says fifth-generation farmer Betty Sue Robie. “They want to hold on so bad—but with fluctuating milk prices and competition from the big agribusinesses, they just can’t afford to." 

Betty Sue says the conservation easement will give the family a chance to try new approaches to keeping the farm strong in the long run. They're hoping to offer riverside camping and farm tours to “give more people a chance to pat the cows, feed the pigs, see how cheese gets made—and experience a lifestyle that’s almost extinct.” 

If you’d like to bring a taste of Robie Farm to this holiday season, stop by the farm’s rustic storefront to sample the Robie family’s award-winning cheese and dairy products—or order online at Then try this grown-up spin on a childhood classic—developed by local New Hampshire restaurateur Justin Hoyt

Chef Justin's Mac 'n' Cheese

Ingredients—mornay sauce (makes 3 cups)

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter 
  • 2/3 cup diced shallots wild porcini salt 
  • 1/4 cup flour 2-2/3 cup milk 
  • 1-1/3 cup Robie Farm heavy cream (or as needed) 
  • 1 bay leaf 
  • 4 black peppercorns 
  • 4 whole cloves freshly ground nutmeg 
  • Freshly ground white pepper 
  • 1/2 cup Robie Farm Gruyere

Ingredients—mac 'n' cheese

  • 8 ounces rigatoni
  • 3 cups mornay sauce (recipe below)
  • Robie Farm heavy cream (to thin mornay if needed)
  • 1 cup sauteed shitake mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup prosciutto wild porcini salt
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons minced basil
  • 1/4 cup grated Robie Farm Smoked Toma
  • 1/4 cup grated Robie Farm Gruyere
  • 1/4 cup grated Robie Farm Piermont
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon minced thyme
  • 4 tablespoons Panko breadcrumbs

Mornay sauce 

Melt the butter in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallot and a pinch of salt and cook slowly, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes or until the shallot is translucent. Sprinkle in the flour and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly to avoid burning. Add the milk and cream and whisk until fully incorporated. Bring to a simmer, whisking, then add the bay leaf, peppercorns, and cloves. Move the pan to one side of the burner, away from direct heat, to avoid scorching.

Return pan to heat and cook on a gentle simmer, whisking occasionally and reaching into the corner of the pan, for about 30 minutes. (If the sauce does begin to scorch, pour it into a clean pan and continue—don't scrape the bottom of the pan!) Remove the sauce from the heat and season to taste with salt, a grating of nutmeg, and a pinch of white pepper. Strain the sauce, add the cheese, and whisk to melt. Use immediately, or place in a storage container: press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to keep a skin from forming, and refrigerate for up to a week. If the sauce is too thick after refrigeration, it can be thinned with a little heavy cream. 

Mac n' cheese 

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the rigatoni and cook for 7 minutes—then cool in the fridge. Meanwhile, put a rack in the top third of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees. Warm the mornay sauce in a large saucepan over low heat, thinning with cream if necessary. Remove from heat and add the rigatoni, cheeses (reserve 1/4 cup as a topping), mushrooms, and prosciutto. Mix well and season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour into an 8-cup gratin dish (such as a 9×15 oval) or into a cast-iron pan. Sprinkle the top with the thyme, the reserved cheese, and buttered bread crumbs.

Place the gratin dish or pan on a baking sheet to catch any sauce that may bubble over, then place in the oven. Turn the heat down to 375 and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the mixture is hot and bubbling around the edges. If the gratin has not browned, turn on the broiler to brown the top—be careful not to burn! 

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