Saturday, May 4, 2013
Bacon infused Mac and Cheese
Everyone loves Mac and Cheese. Yes, I'm sure even the Vegans secretly lust after it. So how do you improve on a classic? Simple, just add bacon. This is a riff on the classic Macaroni and Cheese Casserole like my mom used to make- only I add bacon, a whole lot of bacon. And if that isn't enough, I make use of the bacon grease as well.
It all starts with bacon. I'm making a fairly large casserole, so I'm going to need a large amount of bacon- an entire package of bacon. As always, bacon comes out best when cooked slowly over a medium-low heat until all the fats are rendered, and the bacon slowly becomes crispy.
Once the bacon is cooked, set it aside and let it drain. Crush it into chunks of various sizes to add to our sauce. Reserve as much of the bacon grease as you can. We'll use this to put the finishing touch on the dish later.
Next comes the cheese sauce. I use basically the same sauce I used in my classic mac and cheese - heavy cream, butter, shredded cheddar cheese, and a little seasoning, including some turmeric which has a slightly smoky flavor that pairs well with cheese, and intensifies the yellow-orange color of the sauce.
Once all the cheese is melted into the sauce, add in the crushed up bacon bits a little at a time.
Take a pound of cooked pasta (wagon wheel shapes work great), and toss it with the cheese sauce in a casserole dish. Make sure everything is combined well so you don't get pockets of non-cheesy pasta. Now, go back to that bacon grease we set aside. Take enough breadcrumbs to cover the top of the casserole, and mix in the left-over bacon grease until the breadcrumbs start to become clumpy. Put a layer of this breadcrumb and bacon grease mixture on top of the casserole, so it can be the proverbial icing on the cake.
Bake the whole thing at 350 degrees until the topping is browned and the cheese is nice and bubbly. You should have a few spots, especially around the edges, where you'll have bits that have turned seriously brown and crispy (these are the best parts).
The final result may be a touch on the oily side, but it will be amazing. The bacon flavor dominates- even in the crispy breadcrumb topping. Once you get back from the heart doctor, new lipitor prescription in hand, you'll want more.