The Mack-daddy of Mac and Cheese

We’re all trying to watch our calories and waistlines as summer approaches, that’s a given. But sometimes you just need some mac and cheese in your life and the image of that summer bod gets put on hold temporarily.  So if you’re going to go for it, go all in and enjoy it. Enter a few of my favorite friends: brie, camembert, bacon and onion.

This is not a recipe for the faint of heart, but it definitely will warm your heart. The ultimate comfort food, the secret to this dish is bacon and onion. I like to use thick-cut bacon because I think it has a deeper smokey flavor and it’s able to hold up and not disapear into the mac and cheese.  Cut the bacon up into bite sized pieces and crisp it up in a cast iron pan. Once it’s crispy, remove it and in go the onions. You may need to drain some of the grease depending on how fatty the bacon you’re using is. The onion does a quick “carmelization” in the bacon grease and then remove them to the side. I know you will be tempted to, but DO NOT clean out the pan. The mac and cheese will go in it later and that bacon and onion just added some fantastic flavor to the cast iron.

Like any good homemade mac and cheese it’s centered on developing a good roux and building the cheese sauce on top of that roux. I used to be intimidated by making roux’s, mostly because I didn’t understand just how easy they are. Butter, melt, add flour, stir, combine completely, add milk or cream, stir until no lumps exist. That’s it. Then in goes the seasonings and the best part, the cheese. If it’s your first time making mac and cheese (and I don’t mean Kraft) then I would suggest measuring out your ingredients out beforehand. Actually, scratch that—I would always suggest this. It just allows you to focus on the dish and not be scrambling to get things incorporated while you need to stir. I like to do the sauce in a saucepan, mostly because I’m anal about my cast iron and stirring that removes the natural seasoning of the pan. You do you though.

While all of this is happening, you’re cooking your pasta. I would make two recommendations here: use a noodle that can stand up to being boiled, the heat in the oven and the sauce holds to it—my personal favorite is cavatappi—and cook your pasta slightly under al dente. Doing this will prevent it from getting soggy in the process of cooking. Add those noodles to that delicious cheese sauce and then throw in the bacon and onions—like their own cheesy hot tub. Put it back in the cast iron and sprinkle it with the breadcrumbs. I like to do it a la Salt Bae, but that’s my personal choice, you make it yours.

A few minutes under the broiler and it’s perfection. You’ll never look at that blue box again.

BCB (Brie, Camembert and Bacon) Mac and Cheese

Cook time: 35 min

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. your favorite noodle (I prefer cavatappi)mac
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1 tablespoon minced thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 8 ounce Brie, rind removed, cubed
  • 8 ounces Camembert, rind removed, cubed
  • 1 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 to 1 cup chicken stock, warmed
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 5-6 slices thick cut bacon, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
    garnish:
    1 cup breadcrumbs
    2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
    2 teaspoons minced thyme

Directions:


1.  Add a small swirl of olive oil to cast iron pan and heat over medium-high heat. Add bacon and cook until crisp. Remove from pan and drain on a paper towel lined plate.

2. Drain most of grease from pan, reserving about a tablespoon in the pan. Add onions and cook until translucent and soft. Remove from pan and set to the side.

3. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook until slightly less than al dente (about a minute less than the box recommends), stirring occasionally. Strain pasta and set aside until ready to use.

4. Heat a medium-large saucepan over medium heat and melt butter. Sprinkle flour and stir until well combined and the raw flour taste disappears, 2 to 3 minutes.

5. Stir in milk and cream and continue to stir until no lumps remain. Lower heat to medium-low and allow mixture to thicken, enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Stir in mustard, thyme, ginger and paprika until well combined. Season with salt and pepper.

6. In a small bowl toss together both cheeses and lemon juice. Begin whisking cheeses into the skillet and continue to whisk together until all the cheese has been added and mixture is thick and smooth.

7. Add warmed chicken stock a little bit at a time, until it’s your desired consistency and stir together until smooth. Fold in the cooked and cooled pasta until just combined and adjust seasonings.

8. Stir in bacon and onion until combined.

9. Heat broiler to high.

10. In a small bowl toss together crushed crackers butter and thyme until well combined.

11. Put mac and cheese mixture in cast iron pan. Top with the breadcrumb mix and place under the broiler for 3 to 5 minutes or until the pasta is slightly caramelize and the cheese sauce becomes hot and bubbly.

12. Allow the mac and cheese to sit and cool for 5 to 7 minutes before serving

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