bits and pieces

Thursday, April 28, 2011

"Cowboy" Mac and Cheese

is there anything better?
 As some people may know, I have a problem with cheese. The way some people have a problem with scotch, I have such a problem with cheese. I just can't get enough. I love it all. My dearest, darling domestic partner-man calls me the Cheese Ambassador. Glory, glory, I'm just spreading the good news!

Anyway, the good news aside, I hadn't made a mac and cheese in what felt like FOREVER. And I am poor. And I am trying to cook my way through the stuff I have in my house. As you can see in the background of that <-- photo, I have a lot of pasta in jars. And beer. There's always beer.

This mac and cheese was inspired by the 'americana' theme of last night's dinner (potato salad, coleslaw, corn on the cob, etc). I've been reading a fair bit about mac and cheese made with beer. So why not try it? I only had Keith's and Corona in the house which is not necessarily ideal (you want something hearty like Guinness or something really hoppy or smoky) - but I soldiered on in my quest.

This is just your standard mac and cheese recipe jazzed up a bit. I added onion for fun, and jalapeno for kick. I used Monterey Jack cheese to stay with the theme, and I had a bit of a Porter cheese hanging around (which is made with some sort of stout - Guinness I think), so I added some on top just to be cute.

In case you don't know homemade mac and cheese is REALLY EASY. More time consuming than KD, yes, but a really basic recipe to learn, and then you can add whatever makes you happy! See: ridiculous mac and cheese. Try to make your own one day. Maybe today! Nothing is more impressive than noodles + sauce + delicious browned cheese. So, let's begin! This mac and cheese recipe fits in the dish above which gives you 4 small portions or 2 giant ones. Delightful.

 about 2 cups of dried macaroni noodles

2 big tbsp butter
1/8 of a cup of flour
1.5 cups of milk
1.5 cups of beer - beer of your choice. I'd suggest getting a stronger flavoured beer than Keith's as I couldn't really actually taste the beer itself. Just a little tang or something.
1 cup (or more!) grated Monterey Jack
pinch of paprika
pinch of mustard powder
salt + pepper

1/4 cup diced onions
2-3 tbsp diced jalapenos
a little more grated cheese if you happened to eat all of your topping during the cooking process
a handful of panko bread crumbs to sprinkle on top (panko > any other breadcrumb)

other things you will need:
a baking dish for your mac and cheese
a strainer
a large-ish sauce pot
a big pot to cook your noodles in. 
a cheese grater
a whisk and a wooden spoon 

  1. Cook your noodles in a pot of heavily salted boiling water. Cook them for about 8 minutes, then strain, and run cold water over them. 
  2. Preheat your oven to 425. If you haven't already, grate your cheese, chop your onion + jalapeno. Also - grease your mac and cheese dish. Seriously - I always forget.
  3. In your sauce pan melt the butter over medium to medium-high heat (depending on your stove). Once the butter has melted, add the flour and stir to combine. Congratulations, you have made a roux. Cook your strange flour-butter paste for a minute or two. 
  4. Add beer whisk to combine. Whisk in milk. Turn heat to medium-high if you haven't yet and add paprika and mustard powder and some salt and pepper. Add cheese. Stir to combine. Your sauce should start to thicken from the heat + addition of the cheese. Cook until it has thickened adequately (use your judgment. it should look like slightly thick cream sauce).Taste and make any adjustments necessary - more paprika for smoke, more pepper, some cumin for south western-y goodness, a bit of salsa for some tomato goodness, more cheese for more cheese, etc. Make it taste delicious, make it your own.
  5. Throw in your noodles and add your onion + jalapeno. Stir stir stir.
  6. Pour it into your mac and cheese dish. Top with additional cheese + panko. Bake at 425 for 16-20 minutes or until golden-y brown on top. 
  7. Admire. Eat. 
that's right, I AM this awesome everyday.

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