There are few things more comforting in the kitchen than an old-school batch of mac n’ cheese. Ooey gooey goodness. Perfection—almost—I mean have you ever added bacon to your mac n’ cheese?
If your house is anything like mine, they’ve already smelled the bacon and are lined up, waiting to share!
Yield: 6 to 8
1 box (about 1 pound) penne pasta, cooked and drained
1 pound bacon, chopped
1 cup water
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
2/3 cup Flour
5 cups milk
1 pound cheddar, shredded
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoons hot sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
sprinkle salt and lots of freshly ground pepper
4 slices whole grain bread, torn into large pieces
olive oil to drizzle
Preheat your oven to 350 °F (180 °C)
Toss the chopped bacon and water into a thick-bottomed stockpot over medium-high heat. By adding water you allow the bacon to gradually release its fat and brown evenly without burning. Continue cooking until the water evaporates and the bacon crisps nicely.
Remove the bacon from the pan and set aside, but leave the fat. Add the garlic and stir for several minutes to release its flavor. Add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon until it forms a smooth paste or roux. Cook for a few minutes more to toast the roux and allow it to develop a bit more flavor.
Add the milk and switch to a whisk for stirring. Whisk until the sauce is smooth again and continue cooking, and whisking, for about 5 minutes or so, until the sauce is quite thick.
Stir in the cheese, Dijon, paprika, hot sauce and Worcestershire. Season with salt and pepper.
Toss in the pasta and the reserved bacon, coat them well with the sauce and turn it all into a 9- X 13-inch (3.5 L) casserole or baking dish.
Toss the bread with a splash or two of olive oil, then sprinkle it over the cheese mixture. Bake until it is heated through and the bread is toasty brown, about 30 minutes or so.
Chef Michael’s Kitchen
© Chef Michael Smith
Freestyle Twist: Bacon is dandy but feel free to add your own twist by switching it for grilled chicken, lobster or ham! Toss in some peas or any other vegetable you have on hand add color and flavor to your personalized mac n’ cheese.
This is one of my all-time favourite comfort foods. Just like high-starch rice, barley may be simmered and stirred into a smooth, creamy risotto, absorbing the flavour of the bacon and rich chicken broth as it slowly cooks. The results are richly flavoured and deeply satisfying.