|My heavily whiskered brother and his fiance|
Things got especially dire during summer vacations when the structure of school life collapsed into one lazy river of days melting into days. Peter would disappear into his books, which was fine for me and my sister because, if it's not already obvious, Peter was not much fun to be around during this particular phase of his life. Anyway, a few days into his hermithood, Peter's bedroom door would violently bust open, and rattle-boned Peter would come stumbling out muttering, "Food. I need food..."
He'd hobble determinedly to the kitchen, and I am not exaggerating when I say I've seen placenta-covered, newborn giraffes have it more together more than Peter in this state. But somehow he'd manage to throw together one obscenely large stockpot of mac and cheese. As children, we didn't have the most discerning palates, and my younger sister and I would actually sit there puppy-faced, hoping to score just a wee bowl to share. Surely skinny
So there you have it. Peter and his bounties of mac and cheese with the lowly younger sisters hanging onto the bottom rung of the cheesy pasta ladder. The moral of the story, Linde, is that little sister and I should have overtaken starved and feeble older brother and had ourselves a mac and cheese feast! I encourage this behavior from you should any mac and cheese materialize in your marriage.
Anyway, story time over. Fast forward to today, and I am making my own mac and cheese. What's more, I loaded it up with bacon that used to be a slab of pork belly which I marinaded and home-cured to elevated bacon status. Hopefully, I can get going on a post about that soon because it's not hard
Bacon Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese
(adapted from FoodWishes.com)
Time: less than an hour Servings: As a main dish, 2. As a side, 4.
1 lb elbow macaroni (use less if you like your mac and cheese to be saucier/cheesier)
6 slices (+/- 2-3 slices depending on your bacon fidelity)
3-4 cups of grated sharp mature Cheddar cheese (the older, the better meaning calcium lactate crystals and crumbling are both good signs)
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/8 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp salt
pinch of nutmeg
1 tsp Dijon mustard
3 cups cold milk
1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs plus 1 tbsp melted butter
First fry up your bacon slices until crispy.
Save the rendered bacon fat. Chop up the bacon slices into little (or big) bits.
|Obviously eat the ones that are "too big" or "too small".|
Heat over medium heat until the fatties start to foam, bubble, and make a crackly noise. Then act fast! Throw in the flour and start whisking. Do this for 3-4 minutes to form a brownish roux (paste of flour cooked in fat).
Then toss in the thyme, cayenne, and pepper. Adding these spices/herbs to this oil mixture is important because these herbs will bleed out maximal flavor in oil as opposed to if you added it in later when the the mixture is diluted with milk. Whisk around for about a minute.
Add in one cup of milk. Whisk whisk! It's got to be cold milk to ensure a smooth sauce free of lumps. Add in the remaining two cups of milk and whisk some more while bringing to a simmer.
While the mixture is coming to a simmer, add the nutmeg. Then add the Worcestershire sauce and salt. Whisk away and once it's arrived at a simmer, turn the heat down to med-low. Let it hang out and thicken for about 8 minutes, stirring often so the sauce doesn't form a skin.
Once the sauce is done, turn the heat off, and add in the grated cheese, but reserve about half a cup for the crumb topping. I've found that the older, crumblier, and smellier the cheddar; the better. Sharp cheddar would be my first choice, but you can sub in any similar cheese like gouda, colby, gruyere...blah blah. Stir until the cheese is melted in, and you've produced a sexy, smooth cheese sauce.
|Blend of Kirkland sharp cheddar and mature aged sharp white cheddar.|
Nowish would be a good time to preheat your oven to 400 degrees F or 200 degrees C.
Cook pasta according to package instructions; mine was a quick 6 minutes. Make sure the water you boil the pasta in is salted. Drain the pasta well.
Using the last of the cheese, sprinkle on a layer atop the pasta.
Mix the breadcrumbs with 1 tablespoon of melted butter. It'll look kind of like a dry, crumbly mixture. Sprinkle that on top of the cheese layer.
Heat in the oven to form a nice browned crust - about 20 minutes.
Bacon cheddar mac and cheese.