Bacon Mac & Cheese

August 13, 2011

Main Dishes, Pasta Dishes


If you are on a diet you may want to forgo this episode of WikiJan Cooks.  This is NOT diet food this is serious comfort food.  This is cheddar overload comfort food.  This is eat till you enter a Mac and Cheese coma comfort food.  I think this is the most requested thing I cook for the Work Peeps, when I bring it there is not even a smell left in the pan.

I stumbled upon the greatness of this Mac & Cheese when I was looking to kick up my regular Mac & Cheese just a tad.  While the original is fantastic the smokiness the Applewood bacon give to this recipe is SO GOOD!  The first time I brought this to Commerce Doug & Keith, in less than 2 hours, ate half of a 9″x13″x2″ pan between the two of them.  I thought I might lose a limb if I got to close to the pan.  Sadly Doug has gone on to another job and is no longer with us at Commerce but Keith picks up the slack for him and eats his share when I bring this to work.

The list is long on this one, sorry guys, but it is SO worth it.  This does make a rather large amount but you can half it real easy or make the whole thing and freeze part of it.  I would not know what it is like to be able to freeze any as the hungry mouths out number the amount of Mac & Cheese…

Bacon Mac & Cheese

4 c Milk

2 c Half & Half

2 lb Elbow Macaroni

1 lb Colby Cheese (shredded)

8 oz Extra Sharp Cheddar (shredded)

8 oz Monterrey Jack (shredded)

1 Onion (finely diced)

2 Poblano Peppers (julianned)

1/2 lb Applewood Bacon

1/4 Ts Chipotle Pepper

1 Ts Paprika

1/2 Ts Nutmeg

4 TB AP Flour

5 TB Butter

3 cloves Garlic (minced)

1/4 Ts Kosher Salt

1 TS Fresh Ground Pepper

1 Ts Kosher Salt

Cut the bacon into lardons and render out the fat being sure to not burn the bacon, if you cook it over low heat it will cook out the fat and leave a nicely browned bacon .  Drain on paper towels and set aside.

Melt 1 TB of butter in a 6 qt stockpot and toss in the diced onion, pinch of salt and julianned peppers saute until the onions are translucent but have no color.  You will want to remove the seeds and the white spines if you do not want it as hot

Give the onion a nice fine dice

Onions and Poblanos sweated down

Remove  from pan and add to the set aside bacon.  In the same pan without washing it toss in the remaining butter and allow to melt, add flour, Chipotle powder, garlic, Paprika, Nutmeg, black pepper and remaining salt, the little bit of fond from the onions and peppers will flavor the sauce as well.  Allow to cook on med heat until mixture turns a golden brown.

You can still see the bits of garlic in the Roux

Dump in all the milk and half & half stirring to combine with Roux being  sure there are no lumps.  Allow to cook for a few minutes until milk is the thickness of heavy cream, reserve 2 c of shredded cheese for the topping,then start adding the cheese a handful at a time.  DO NOT dump it all in at once your sauce will break and become grainy.  By adding one handful at a time and stirring until the cheese is completely incorporated it will allow the flour in the milk to absorb the extra fat from the cheese, the more you stir the better off you are,  it should take you about 5-10 minutes to incorporate the cheese. Your sauce at the end of the stirring should be silky smooth.

Yeah that’s the ticket!

Cook and drain your Mac, toss in the bacon, onions and peppers stir to combine, pour in the sauce.

The main players

All sauced up and ready for the baking pan

I usually make mine on the soup-y side as it will sit over night so by the time it is ready to eat it is just about perfect. So add as much sauce as you like to get the sauce to mac ratio where you would like it. Pour into a 9″x13″x2″ baking dish and top with reserved cheese and bake at 350 until bubbly and cheese is melted and slightly brown.

Yeah I know that’s no 9×13 but it is pretty none the less…

OK, now you can play with the cheese and do Pepper Jack  and add jalapenos along with the Poblanos and either leave in or take out the bacon.  You can also use Swiss and substitute ham chunks for bacon.

Fair warning I will take no responsibility for any belly aches from eating to much of this dish…

Now go play with your food.

WikiJan

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5 Comments on “Bacon Mac & Cheese”

  1. Kentucky Fried Chic Says:

    I read an article on macaroni in Cooks Illusttrated I thought you might enjoy regarding macaroni this week. Your recipe looks scrumptious!

    Elbow macaroni is much more popular in the United States than it is in Italy, where it’s known variously as chifferi or gomiti. This pasta has become a staple in such distinctly American recipes as macaroni salad and macaroni and cheese. But with so many brands of elbow macaroni on the market, which one should you buy? Are they all the same? To find out, we rounded up eight contenders and tasted them simply dressed with vegetable oil and in our recipe for classic macaroni and cheese. What did we discover?

    Barilla, an Italian brand that makes pasta for the American market domestically (notably, it doesn’t make elbow macaroni for the Italian market) won our tasting by a large margin. Our tasters praised this pasta for its “wheaty,” “buttery” flavor and “firm texture,” and they especially liked that these elbows have small ridges and a slight twist that “holds sauce well.” After this candidate, our tasters didn’t notice much difference among the next five brands, all of which were deemed acceptable.

    We did, however, throw our tasters two curveballs by including two new products in our blind tasting. The tasters actually preferred (albeit only slightly) the product that was simply traditional pasta enriched with extra fiber and calcium. The other—a multigrain pasta made with wheat, lentil, chickpea, barley, and flaxseed (among other) flours—had a dark appearance and “health food” flavor that were real turn-offs.

    Reply

  2. Kentucky Fried Chic Says:

    p.s. The tastesters at CI thought Barilla brand macaroni was the best.

    Reply

    • Wikijancooks Says:

      KFC~
      Interesting…I popped over and looked at their comparison and found it interesting that the 2 pasta brands I normally use were on the list of recommended as well.

      I prefer using DeCecco’s Orecchiette (or “elephant ears”). DeCecco’s uses a bronze die which makes the pasta slightly rough allowing it to “grab” onto the sauce, the concave side of the pasta really cups the cheese sauce. I’ve used a number of their pastas and when I am not making my own pasta, I reach for this brand to pair with The Ragu. The mouth feel is really cool being that the pasta is slightly on the rough side. It feels a bit “sandy” when you are handling it before it hits the water. Their Perciatelli is a favorite of The Husband for some odd reason, personally I don’t care for it as it traps water in the hole going the length of the pasta which waters down my Ragu.

      I have to agree with their assessment of the Barilla Plus there is just something about the mixture of the different flours that, for me, makes it fall flat. Might be the real “grain-y” flavor, not nutty, but kind of like a raw flavor even after it has been cooked. Rather like when using flour in a roux and not allowing time for the flour to actually cook-it gets a pasty flavor. Might be the lack of “tenderness” due to the varied grains used in the pasta, feels like you are biting into a half cooked plank for dough…but that is just me.

      I am curious as to why elbows are not used in Italy as they are here, is it just that there are so many other options or we are just lazy as it were to search out better options? I remember while in Germany there were SO MANY different types of pastas that are just not seen here, the best I could gather was that the sauce was paired with a specific pasta, thin sauces paired with a pasta that would have ridges to give the sauce a “hand hold” to attach so that the sauce would not be left in the bottom of the dish or what have you. Rather sad that we are limited to so few choices…

      We need a pasta revolution!

      WikiJan

      Reply

      • Hungry Neophyte Says:

        K.F.C. and I agree! A pasta revolution is nigh!

      • Wikijancooks Says:

        Well I am glad to see I am not the only one! For me its weird to stroll the pasta isle and have so few options, after 6 years in Germany I am always looking for more. We Americans can be so stuck in our ways when it comes to eating. Getting some people to embrace foods that look slightly different than what they are use to can be a daunting task…while we are fairly open to embrace many things getting people to change how they look at food is almost impossible.

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