The macaroni and cheese recipe below will never be mistaken for something healthy or low-fat. It knows what it is and it owns it. I chose to make it last night because I got a special mac n’ cheese request from the folks who end up eating my culinary creations most often – The Boys. Andy and his roommate, who prefers only to be referred to as “Chocolate,” are in the business of serving folks delicious wines most nights a week. This works out really well for me since I’m never short a personal sommelier or a spot to stop in for glass of vino, but for them it is definitely not the most pleasant schedule. They often work very long hours and don’t get a chance to eat even one proper meal until very, very, very late at night (you know, when everything is already closed). Enter Elizabeth and the ifoodyou philosophy.
For a long time I loved to cook and did quite a bit of it, but was always faced with the dilemma of finding someone to eat the fruits of my labor. I am, after all, only five foot two and if I ate all the food I made I would weigh 300 pounds and look something like Violet from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”:
Great visual, right? I try to make myself picture this every time I want to grab that third slice of pizza. It only works about a third of the time.
Anyway, there I was for almost three years, living alone, cooking constantly, and throwing out tons of leftovers. And then I received the blessed gift of the Human Disposals. We’ve settled into a symbiotic relationship where I get to cook and test as many recipes as I want without worrying about what I am going to do with the extras and, dare I say, the failures. They get meals and leftover deliveries a couple of times a week so that they don’t attempt to survive on Emergen-C and Chips Ahoy. Fair trade, right?
So, last week when I asked if there were any special requests and “Chocolate” piped up with Mac n’ Cheese, I immediately knew what recipe I was going to make . It’s my absolute favorite version (with the exception of the classic Kraft variety) because it has gorgeous layers of flavor and feels like a whole meal, not just a side. Admittedly, the ingredients list is lengthy. I won’t take full credit for it as I sort of ripped it off of a restaurant that I used to eat at. I found a much longer recipe for it online and have been adapting it ever since. The truth is that the proportions change almost every time I make it and the recipe is now really just there to make sure I don’t miss a step – which of course I did last night. I’ll let you folks try to guess what I forgot!
Gruyere and Bacon Mac ‘n Cheese
6 cups chicken broth
2 cubes chicken bouillon
1 lb/box of cavatappi/cellentani/pipette pasta
2-3 teaspoons lemon juice
6-8 slices worth of bacon lardons
1 ½ stick butter, divided
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups heavy cream
1 ½ cups half and half
2 bay leaves
½ teaspoon tobasco sauce (more if you like it spicy)
2 tsp sugar
½ cup sour cream
3 ½ to 4 cups grated gruyere
Sea salt and pepper
½ to ¾ cup panko bread crumbs
1 cube chicken bouillon
2-3 tablespoons butter
Bring chicken broth to a boil and add 2 cubes of chicken bouillon. Cook pasta in broth, drain, and toss with lemon juice and olive oil, then set aside. Render bacon in large pan, then remove and set aside. Add ½ stick of butter and diced onion to bacon drippings and sauté for 3-5 minutes on medium low heat until the onions are soft. Add minced garlic and continue to sauté for 2-3 more minutes. Lightly season with salt and pepper, then dust with flour and cook 2-3 more minutes , stirring frequently. This step is to cook some of the flour taste out
Add cream, half n’ half, bay leaves, tobasco sauce, and sugar to the onions and mix thoroughly. Simmer on medium low heat for 15 minutes until thickened and flavorful, seasoning as necessary. When sauce is ready, cut off heat, remove bay leaves, and stir in sour cream and all but ¼ cup grated cheese. Grease a casserole dish and add pasta and sauce, tossing to coat, and spread evenly in dish.
In a separate pan, melt the remaining 2-3 tablespoons of butter and crumble 1 chicken bouillon cube into melted butter. Add panko bread crumbs and toss to coat. Sprinkle remaining grated cheese and buttered bread crumbs onto pasta in casserole dish and bake at 375 for 20 minutes until bubbly and slightly browned.