But only sometimes. This is certainly one of those occasional meals, when something special is happening.
And it was a special occasion, because Chelsea came to visit.
In fact, I like Chelsea so much, I made one of her favorite dishes – macaroni and cheese. With bacon. And onions. And three kinds of cheeses.
You pretty much should wish you were Chelsea. We ate, I would say, about two pounds of mac and cheese within two days. That’s kind of gross.
Only not. It was delicious.
This is the kind of dish where you turn off the little voice in your head that tells you, “Really, bikini season is just around the corner.” The one that tells you it’s really excessive to you cheddar, gruyere, AND asiago. And bacon.
Tell it to shut the eff up.
You’re not going to do this everyday, but you’re going to do it sometimes because let’s face it, food makes life extra yummy.
So with this recipe, I quieted the New Year’s nagging voice in my head. I embraced the fact that sometimes, I’m gonna eat like crap. And I enjoyed every bite.
So stop worrying.
And be glad you’re not a bird this week.
Chelsea’s Mac n’ Cheese
(Or two really hungry women for two days.)
1 lb. pasta
I used shells, elbows or ziti or any other smallish pasta will work fine. Hell, bake this up with spaghetti and it will be fantastic.
19 oz. Cheese
Weird number, I know, but that should tell you it’s a flexible one. Aim for about a pound and you should be set. Here’s what I had:
1/2 lb. Gruyere – shredded and divided
6 oz. Mild White Cheddar – shredded
5 oz. Asiago – shredded
You can go for all cheddar, cheddar and mozzarella, add mozzarella into this mix and cut out some of the gruyere – you get the picture. There’s a lot of room for mobility here. Go with what you like.
1 lb. bacon – diced
I only used ten strips, and I regret not using the whole pound. The whole pound is definitely where it’s at. It sounds like a lot, but once it cooks up and you drain all that grease, you really aren’t left with that much bacon.
1 Yellow Onion – Diced
Mixing some slow cooked onions into the mac and cheese adds a wonderful flavor layer and doesn’t stick out texturally.
3-4 Tbs Butter
Or more. This one is kind of on you, I could have easily thrown a whole stick of butter into the sauce, but I figured I wouldn’t be that ridiculous.
3 Cups Milk
You can’t really get around this, you need it.
2 Tbs. Flour
This thickens the sauce. If you want to leave it out, you can, it will effect the thickness of the sauce and not the flavor.
Garlic Powder – To Taste
Panko Bread Crumbs – enough to cover the top of your dish
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- When the water is boiling, add the pasta. Cook for about three minutes – until the pasta just begins to cook. Drain, rinse with cold water, toss with a little bit of olive oil, and set aside.
- Meanwhile, in a cold frying pan, begin to cook the bacon over medium-high heat. Fry until crisp and transfer to a paper towel lined plate. Cover with another piece of paper towel.
- Drain most of the bacon grease, leaving about 1 Tbs in the pan.
- Add the onions and a little bit of salt.
- Cook over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes until onions are a deep, golden color. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
- In a large sauce pan, melt the butter with a generous amount of garlic powder.
- When the milk is hot, add your cheese, one at a time – cheddar, half the gruyere, asiago – whisking until each is thoroughly incorporated.
- Whisk in flour and raise heat to high. Continue whisking until the mixture is boiling and then drop to low heat. Whisk occasionally while you do the next step.
- Combine the pasta, onions, and 3/4 of the bacon in a large bowl.
- Add the bechamel sauce and mix thoroughly.
- Pour into your baking dish.
- Top with a generous helping of Panko crumbs and the remaining bacon.
- Sprinkle the other half of the shredded gruyere on top.
- Cover loosely with aluminum foil.
- Cook for half an hour – you should see the cheese bubbling on the side of your baking dish if you’re using a glass dish.
- Uncover and broil for ten minutes at 400°F or until the top layer of cheese is brown and crispy.
- Remove from oven and serve.