Sunday, January 24, 2010

Smoky Mac and Cheese

All I could think about when I woke up to several inches of snow this morning was that I needed some sort of warm, oozily fantastic comfort food... and what better to scratch that itch than to make mac and cheese.

Mac and cheese is the best way to use up whatever cheese remnants you have migrating around your fridge. I never seem to have much of any one kind of cheese, so aside from the roux, each batch of mac and cheese seems to be a completely new invention.

After reading a few different mac and cheese recipes on Epicurious and scouting out the contents of my fridge, I decided today's mac and cheese was to be "smoky." I had about half a round of Applewood Smoked Cheddar, a few pieces of Applewood Smoked Bacon (leftover from sandwiches earlier this week) and some chipotle peppers left from my last batch of Chipotle Caramel Corn. Hence... smoky.

- 1 pound (454 g) of macaroni
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter
- 1/2 cup of flour
- 3 cups of milk
- 1 cup of light cream
- 8 ounces (1 package) of cream cheese
- pinch of nutmeg
- 2 1/2 cups of Applewood Smoked Cheddar, grated
- 2 small chipotle peppers, finely chopped
- 3 strips of Applewood Smoked Bacon, chopped
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs
- sprinkle of ancho chili powder

In a large pot, add your pasta to boiling salted water. Cook until the pasta is al dente (firm but tender to the bite). Once cooked, drain the pasta and give it a quick rinse with cold water... you don't need it to keep cooking and become complete mush while you carry on with the sauce.

Preheat your oven to 350 F.

Now... don't be frightened of the word, "roux," it really isn't that complicated a process... and we're not using clarified butter here. All we're going to do here is melt the butter, then add the flour (sprinkling slowly and stirring constantly to avoid lumps). Cook the butter and flour together until it starts to smell nutty but don't let it brown.

Whisk in the milk and let everything warm to a simmer. You'll want to keep a close eye on this and keep whisking so that you don't end up with lumps. If you do, you can always strain the mixture and continue on with the process (but, frankly, who wants to do that?? Instead... keep a watchful eye on it.). Once the mixture is simmering, you will see it begin to thicken. Add in the cream cheese and nutmeg... letting the cheese melt in. Next, add in your cheddar, letting that melt in too. Next, the chopped bacon and chipotle peppers. And, now, add in the macaroni and stir to combine everything.

At this point, you can transfer everything to a baking dish or leave it in the pot (as I left it in my Le Creuset). Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the surface and, if you would like, a scant sprinkling of the chili powder over the top.

Put the macaroni in the oven for 30 minutes or until bubbling happily around the edges.

Dig in and feel warm.

1 thought(s):

gonna-need-a-bigger-boat said...

Please invite me over and make this.

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