Friday, October 31, 2008

Mac & cheese with blue cheese and bacon

This is the third version of mac & cheese posted on this blog. The other two (a southwest jalapeno version and a manchego and Spanish chorizo version) are posted here. This time around, I used three cheeses: cheddar, gruyere, and Valdeon - a really strong Spanish blue cheese and some applewood smoked bacon from Savenor's.

To make the mac & cheese, start by boiling water and cooking the pasta. I used DeCecco cavatappi pasta for this batch. Cut the bacon into small strips and cook slowly in order to render out a lot of the fat. While the bacon is cooking, you can start the cheese sauce. The first step is to make a basic bechamel. Heat up about 2 cups of milk. In a separate saucepan, melt about 4Tbsp of butter and mix with about 3Tbsp flour. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes until the roux just begins to color. Add the warm milk to the roux 1Tbsp at a time until you have added about 1/2 cup, then you can add larger amounts.
Let the bechamel simmer with a bay leaf for a about 10 minutes. You can add white pepper as well. Then, start stirring in grated or crumbled cheese. Add as much as you like. The more the better.
When the cheese sauce is done, add the bacon, mix in the pasta, and put everything into oven proof dishes.
Top with panko bread crumbs and finish in the oven for 30 minutes at 350F. To get the bread crumbs to brown a little better than in the picture below, you can put a couple pats of butter on top of the bread crumbs before putting it in the oven.

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