July 21, 2012

Homemade Mac & Cheese (with Bacon and Tuffle Oil)

homemade mac & cheese... with bacon

It came to my attention last week that I had never attempted to make Homemade Mac and Cheese.  My mom had asked me if I had a good recipe that I could share with her.  She was wanting to make Mac and Cheese as a dish to take along with her to a weekend get together at her friend’s lake house.  I racked my brain (I have a complex filing system stored up there) and came up short.  I had nothing.  Is this right?  Is this true?  But how can that be?  How is it that I have never melted cheddar into a creamy base and stirred in pasta to culminate in a gooey, cheesy, comforting dish that almost everyone has grown up on in some form of the matter?  I guess Velveeta had sufficed for the last 27 years.  That is, until now.

casarecce pasta

Once I realized that I didn’t have a macaroni and cheese recipe in my repertoire to pass along to my mom, my first instinct was to reference The Pioneer Woman.  I guess I just figured that a woman who has based her blogging career on cooking down-home, family friendly, comfort food should probably have a stellar Mac and Cheese recipe.  It wasn’t but a day later when my mom reported back to me its success and popularity.  It was a winner according to her.

cheese and bacon, as good as it gets

This report of gooey, cheesy goodness came around the same time I was planning my next entry for this blog.  I figured I might as well add a Homemade Mac and Cheese recipe to my index, seeing as how I was in desperate need of one anyway.  Now, The Pioneer Woman prides herself in the unpretentious nature of her Mac and Cheese recipe, but I figured a little pretension never hurt anyone.  So I thought, why not step up this Mac and Cheese and make it as decadent and luxurious as possible.

just a dash of bacon

I used two types of cheese, cheddar and Gouda.  I added bacon, of course.  I mean, why wouldn’t you? And I tossed in a considerable amount of truffle oil for good measure.  In my opinion, there are few things better than a bowl of truffled Mac and Cheese- if it’s on the menu, it’s the first thing I order.  The results were outstanding.  Better than I had hoped for, honestly.  The only problem I had anticipated was what to do with the leftovers.  I had a heaping mound of rich and sensual Homemade Mac and Cheese and my biggest worry was having to throw out any leftovers that Jon and I weren’t able to consume over the course of a rainy weekend.  I simply can’t bear the thought of throwing out anything that contains truffle oil.

panko bread crumbs make for a nice crust

Unfortunately, I can’t report back to you how this Mac and Cheese kept.  I don’t know if it keeps well in the freezer.  I don’t even know if it tastes just as good 2 days later.  Why, you ask?  The answer is simple, yet slightly disturbing: Jon and I managed to polish off every last noodle of that Mac and Cheese within a measly 36 hour window.  So, let me leave you with one last thought.  If you are planning on making this Homemade Mac and Cheese with bacon and truffle oil for your main squeeze (which you totally should by the way), do yourself a favor and halve the recipe.  Your derrière will thank you later. 

truffled mac & cheese

Homemade Mac and Cheese with Bacon and Truffle
Recipe Adapted From The Pioneer Woman

This version of Mac and Cheese is so silky, so creamy, so utterly luxurious that it seems almost sinful to eat a whole serving.  Isn't that the point of comfort food though?  And this Mac and Cheese is the ultimate comfort food.  The bacon and truffle oil are completely optional, but I think they make the dish.  Feel free to use your favorite combination of cheeses as well.  Whichever way you choose, you can't go wrong.  This Mac and Cheese will warm your heart, fill your belly and leave you fat and happy. 

4 cups dry pasta (I used casarecce- I like funky, unique shaped pasta)
1 large egg
5 tbsp butter, divided
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 1/2 cups whole milk (or 2%, 1%), plus an extra 6 tbsp to thin sauce if needed
2 heaping tsp dry mustard
8 oz sharp cheddar, shredded
8 oz gouda, shredded
1/2 tsp salt, plus more to taste
1/2 tsp seasoned salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp paprika
2 tsp white truffle oil
8 slices bacon, cooked until crispy, then crumbled (see below)*
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs

1. Fill a large pot with about 4 quarts of water, salt and bring to boil.  Add pasta and cook for about 6 minutes.  You want the pasta to be very firm.  It will continue to cook and soften when being baked in the oven. Drain the water, but reserve about a 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid. This is useful to add back into the pasta to loosen it up once you're ready to add it to the cheese sauce. Cover the pasta with a damp towel and set aside.

2. Preheat the oven to 350º F. In a small bowl, beat the egg and set aside. To make the roux, melt 4 tbsp butter over medium-low heat in a large sauce pot or dutch oven. Sprinkle the flour over the melted butter and whisk together. Continue to cook for 5 minutes while whisking constantly, being careful not to let the mixture burn.

3. Slowly pour in the 2 1/2 cups milk and add the dry mustard, whisking until smooth. Continue to cook for 5 minutes until the mixture is very thick- it should be the consistency of gravy. Reduce heat to low.

4. Using a measuring cup, spoon out 1/4 cup of the milk mixture then slowly pour it into the beaten egg, while whisking constantly as to avoid cooking the egg.  Continue to whisk until the mixture is smooth and cooled. Pour this egg mixture into the main milk mixture, again while whisking constantly until the two are fully combined and smooth. Add about 3/4 of the shredded cheeses and stir until it's melted and fully incorporated.

5. Add the salt, seasoned salt, ground black pepper and paprika. You can add more salt to taste if you'd like, in fact I'd ere on the side of more salt- you don't want to under season! Next, add the most important ingredient, the truffle oil. Savor the smell and stir to combine.

6. Stir in the drained, cooked pasta. If the pasta is sticking together, this would be the time to add the reserved pasta cooking liquid, prior to stirring it into the cheese sauce, that is. At this point, I also added 6 tbsp of milk to thin the mixture out. Mine was extremely thick and hard to stir.

7. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the crumbled bacon. Butter a 2-quart baking dish and spoon the cheesy pasta into it, flattening the top with the back of your spoon. Sprinkle the top with the remaining shredded cheese. Melt the remaining 1 tbsp of butter in a small bowl. Add the panko bread crumbs and stir to evenly coat, then distribute the bread crumbs across the top of the pasta/cheese. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until bubbly and golden on top. Serve and enjoy! (But I know that won't be a problem...)

Makes about 8 servings

*I love bacon, but I hate the oil splattered mess I have to clean up afterward. My favorite way to make bacon is to top a large baking sheet with a cooling rack, lay out the bacon strips and bake in a 400º oven for about 20 minutes or until perfectly crispy. The bacon tastes just as good and there is barely any clean up involved! I also like to imagine that it's slightly healthier cooked this way, since the bacon grease drips down to the bottom of the pan, but that's just the little devil on my shoulder talking. 

1 comment :

  1. I can only imagine how wonderful this must taste since you added bacon and truffle oil to this! It already was so tasty that now it must taste like a slice of heaven!
    I can attest to this tasting just as great heated up a couple days later in the microwave. Since the cheese melts again over the noodles it still tastes heavenly. Definitely worth making again.....and again!