For long as I can remember I have loved Mac and Cheese. It is one of those North American things, a combination of Italian immigrants with American cheese production and it is a match made in heaven. As a kid growing up, Mac and Cheese invariable always meant Kraft Dinner (which is what we in Canada called Kraft Macaroni and Cheese).
Especially on cold winter days it was great to come home from school at lunch to have this waiting for you. And there is not a university student in Canada who has not survived on this at some point in the last 30 years. It was cheap, it was cheesy (kinda), it was salty, and you always believed it was going to taste good. I used to fool myself thinking it was a great food for a Sunday after a late Saturday, it isn’t btw.
In any case, the recipe for Kraft Dinner was simply. Cook the macaroni, melt some butter and milk, add the neon orange cheese powder and mix together. Naturally, every child had their own interpretation about just how much milk you were to add. I usually opted for more milk for more ‘sauce’. It is just, that this wasn’t so much macaroni and cheese, as it is pasta and weird sauce. It had none of the gooeyness of cheese. Sure, you could splurge and upgrade to the Velveeta Macaroni and Cheese, but this still has a lot of processed cheese in it.
About two years ago I found a copy of the Pit Cue’s cookbook. It is a good read, and I really liked their approach to ‘whole hog’ cooking. Something I would get in trouble if I tired it here. While reminiscing about BBQ’s in the past, I came across their recipe for mac and cheese. It looked nice, but most intriguing was their use of a bacon breadcrumb mixture on the top.
Using aspects of their recipes, and adding my own (especially the cheese combinations and spicing of the cheese sauce), I managed over the Easter break to develop my own mac and cheese recipe. It had flavour, was filling, and most importantly had the cheesy gooeyness to it I craved. It also didn’t hurt that David, who early declared his hatred of such a meal, finished his plate.
- 3 strips of back bacon about 100g
- 50 g salt
- 50 g maple sugar
- 2 sheets of Parchment paper
- 100 g Breadcrumbs
- 1 tsp Paprika
- 1 tsp Chili powder
- ½ tsp White pepper
- 1 tsp Garlic powder
- 500 g Macaroni or other pasta
- 600 ml semi-skimmed Milk
- 200 g grated Cheddar Cheese
- 125 g crumbled Stilton or other blue cheese
- 125 g Maasdam Cheese or Emmental
- 75 g Butter
- 75 g Flour
- 2 shallots
- 2 garlic cloves diced
- 1 TB dried Herbs de provence
- Add the macaroni to boiling salted water, cook until al dente and then drain and quickly rinse in cold water to stop the pasta from cooking.
- To make the bacon crumble topping take the bacon and place it between two sheets of parchment paper and bake this in a 180 degrees oven for about 15-20 min. This will cause the bacon to be like shards of glass, and perfect to crumble. It should be very crispy but not burnt. Mix the crumbled bacon with the salt, sugar, paprika, chili pepper, garlic powder and the bread crumbs. Spread this out onto a baking sheet and return to the oven, turn it down to about 120 degrees and slowly cook until dried out.
- In a saucepan melt the butter and add shallots, garlic and herbes de provence. Once the onion is translucent, add the flour. Whisk to form a roux. Then gradually the milk, while continuing to mix. This should form a mildly thick sauce.
- Next, add the Stilton, Maasdam and all but 75g of the cheddar. Also add the white pepper and nutmeg. Whisk until all cheese is melted. Tip in the pasta and stir until fully combined. Evenly spread this into an oven safe dish.
- Top the pasta with about 3TB of the bacon breadcrumbs and the remaining cheddar. Bake in an oven at 180 for about 20min until nice and gooey and crispy.