Bacon Mac and Cheese

I have a constant battle with macaroni and cheese. When done well, I believe that this dish can solve any of the world’s woes and change your life. If you can’t tell, I have pretty high expectations of mac and cheese.

I also have so much hope. So, whenever I see this dish as a menu option, I order it. My father once asked, after yet another disappointing dish of mac and cheese, why I continued to order it when I knew that it wouldn’t compare to the recipe I had spent countless attempts creating. The answer is optimism. I have had a few life-altering bowls of mac and cheese. I’m dead-set on finding more. And so the search will continue.

However, when you’re searching for a perfect bowl of mac, one that balances creaminess and cheesiness, bacon and pasta, deliciousness and more deliciousness, it is possible that you can find it right in your own kitchen.

One key step to a good cheese sauce is starting with a roux, pronounced “roo”. A roux is used to thicken a sauce and is just fat and flour cooked together. With a roux, you are able to prevent clumps of flour in a sauce because the flour is already mixed into the fat before any other liquid is added.

 

Time to make: 45-60 minutes (approximately one episode of House of Cards)

Freezability: 9/10

**Disclaimer: The night I made this, I was trying to type everything up as I went. This was a terrible idea because I kept forgetting that I had stuff on the stove. So, I apologize for the lack of pictures and I will add more the next time I make this.

Ingredients:

1 lb medium shell pasta

12 oz center cut bacon

10 oz of sharp cheddar cheese (not pre-shredded)

4 oz of mozzarella cheese (not pre-shredded)

4 tbsp butter (1/2 of a stick)

1/2 cup flour

1 qt heavy cream

½ tsp fresh ground pepper

¼ tsp cayenne pepper

1 ½ tsp salt

½ tsp garlic powder

3-4 splashes of Cholula (or any hot sauce really)

Steps:

  1. Before you start you start anything, you are going to want to begin the process of baking your bacon.  Here are instructions on how to do that.  With this dish, I would recommend cooking more on the crispy side because when you bake the mac and cheese, it will soften up.
  2. Begin boiling water for the pasta.
  3. Mise-en-place:
    • Measure out everything.
    • Shred all of the cheese. **Super lazy mode: Don’t shred the cheese. Cut it into 1 inch cubes. This will take longer to melt but require less work.
  4. Add the pasta to the water. Cook the noodles until they are al dente. Drain in colander. I’d recommend stirring the pasta after a couple of minutes as it’s cooling to keep it all from sticking together.

**Don’t forget that you are baking bacon right now. I’d recommend checking it at this point. When it is done, remove it from the oven and place strips on paper towel to get some of the grease off of it. When your bacon is done cooking, keep the oven turned on. You will need this pre-heated oven to bake your mac and cheese.

  1. In the pan that the pasta was previously occupying, add the butter. Melt over medium-medium/low heat. When the butter is melted, add half of the flour. Use a whisk to mix together. Whisk in the other half of the flour. This is your roux.20160314_200920
  2. Once you have made your roux, slowly whisk the cream into it.
  3. Add the salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, and hot sauce. Stir into sauce.
  4. Allow this mixture to simmer for about 15 minutes. 
  5. Add the cheese. Continue to stir regularly until cheese has melted entirely. If your sauce starts to bubble at any point, lower the temperature of your burner.
  6. Roughly chop the bacon. It doesn’t have to be in really tiny pieces, you can keep it as big or as small as you prefer.
  7. When the cheese is fully melted, mix the chopped bacon into the sauce. Stir the pasta noodles into the sauce. Dish into two 8×8 pans. I used one aluminum one so I could freeze it. Cover both pans with aluminum foil. For the one that will be frozen, stop here.                                         20160314_205319
  8. For the one you will not be freezing, bake in over for about twenty minutes. Remove aluminum foil and bake for about 5-10 more minutes. It should be bubbly and delicious looking at this point.
  9. When the one for the freezer has cooled, put the whole container in a gallon freezer bag and remove as much air as possible. Label, date, and freeze.
  10. To reheat from freezer, allow to defrost in refrigerator overnight. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake, covered in aluminum foil, for about 60 minutes or until warm throughout.
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