Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Mac and Cheese with Gouda and Bacon

If you are on a diet, read this instead. If you are gluten-free, read this. If you are dairy-free, read this. If you are meat-free, read this

If you are IN for pasta, cheese and pork, keep reading, you're home now. :)

This is Gouda Mac with Bacon. It's comfort food in all the best ways. It's creamy, it's filling, it's a coma on a plate. It's goodbye summer, and it's back to school. It will feed you for days. It freezes and reheats really well. And I hope you like it as much as we do. (We ate it with braised greens and cherry tomatoes from our garden so even Steven, right?? Yeah, we thought so too.)

Mac and Cheese with Gouda and Bacon 
Preheat oven to 300
Serves 5-6 as a main course, 8 as a side

1 pound macaroni noodles
12 oz bacon, cooked and crumbled, reserve 1/4 cup
1 tablespoon reserved bacon drippings
1/2 pound cheddar cheese, shredded, reserve 1/2 cup
7oz Gouda cheese, shredded, reserve 1/2 cup
4 cups milk (I used whole)
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup butter
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
10 Ritz crackers
Salt and pepper to taste 

This is not a complicated recipe, but if you've never made mac and cheese from scratch, cheese sauce can be a bit hard to explain. I'll write this out in step by step instructions to make this as clear as I can.

1. Chop up bacon and cook until just under crispy. Cook in a high sided pan that you can make cheese sauce in.
2. Drain bacon, keeping 1 tablespoon of bacon drippings in the pan.
3. Boil noodles until just under done - shave ~3 minutes off the package cook time recommended.

Time to start the roux...
1. Melt 1/4 cup of butter in the pan you cooked the bacon in with the bacon drippings.
2. Add 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes to the butter and toast the spices while butter melts.
3. Add in 1/4 cup of flour and stir to combine. Add in the other 1/4 cup of flour and stir to combine. 
4. Let the flour cook for a bit until it's browning, but not burnt. You've now made a roux!! Many sauces start with a roux.
5. Add in milk 1 cup at a time, whisking all the time. Let the milk soak into the roux before you add more milk. It should take about 5 minutes to get all 4 cups of milk into the roux.

Time to make the cheese sauce...
1. Once all of the milk has been added to the roux, let the milk simmer until the sauce begins to thicken. Don't boil.
2. Add in cheese (holding back 1 cup) and stir to combine and let the cheese melt.
3. Keep the heat on, but very low. Cheese sauce should not boil, it just needs to simmer.
4. Season with salt and pepper. I used about 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and about 15 grinds from a pepper mill - this was probably about 1/4 teaspoon.

Ready to add the bacon and noodles and make the topping...
1. Add in the bacon.
2. Add in the noodles. Stir until well combined and cheese starts to sink into the open noodles. 
3. Butter a large baking dish (something about 9x13 and at least 2 inches high.)
4. Pour in noodles.
5. To make the topping, I like to take the reserved 1/4 cup of bacon, the reserved 1 cup of cheese and the Ritz and chop them together. 
6. Sprinkle on top of the noodles.

Bake at 300 for 30 minutes, uncovered. Broil on low for an additional 2 minutes if you like a crispier crust. DIG IN!! 

A few things about this recipe...
If you don't like bacon, don't use it. No need to increase the fat in your roux either - the bacon just adds flavor.
If you really like bacon, add more! Just make sure you drain the fat down to 1 tablespoon before you add the butter.
If you want a more plain mac and cheese, sub in another pound of cheddar cheese. 
I like the red pepper flakes in all mac and cheese, and it does not add much spice, just a nice dimension to the flavor. 
If you want a slightly healthier version, omit the cracker topping and top with sliced tomatoes. Delicious!

Things made this time last year...

Sweet Onion Tart

Thai Basil Meatballs and Mango Coconut Rice

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