Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Macaroni and Cheese with Crunchy Bacon Topping

I’ve been making more of an effort to cook out of my cookbooks lately. I have a tendency to get overwhelmed by my Pinterest boards and my blog reader and the various cooking newsletters I get in my e-mail box; there are so many delicious recipes all over the place, I just have no idea where to begin. So I’ve been turning to my collection of cookbooks more and more. Not only do I have a decidedly enormous number of them that I really should use, but it’s also therapeutic for me to sit and flip through a cookbook, turning down the corners of the pages that have recipes I want to try.

For my birthday one year, my mother-in-law got me one of Food & Wine’s editions of the Best of the Best Cookbook Recipes, and one recent weekend afternoon I pulled that one off the shelf. Contained within it, unbeknownst to me at the time, was my new favorite macaroni and cheese recipe.

It’s a recipe from Pat and Gina Neely, and it’s amazing. The cheese sauce is composed of sharp white cheddar and Romano, and the pasta is topped with a crunchy, salty layer of potato chips and bacon. Yes, potato chips! And bacon. Brilliant, right? The sauce gets depth and spice from Worcestershire and hot sauce, and the crunchy topping is the perfect counterpoint to the creaminess. I used a fun shape of pasta called trottore (which my boys said reminded them of their toy spiral race track), but any hollow pasta would work for this. Rest assured, this recipe will become a staple in my home.

Macaroni and Cheese with Crunchy Bacon Topping
recipe originally from Down Home with the Neelys, found in Food & Wine’s Best of the Best Cookbook Recipes, Vol. 13

For the macaroni and cheese:

6 tablespoons butter, plus more for greasing
1 pound hollow pasta (cavatappi, elbows, trottore)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk, warmed
1 cup chicken stock, warmed
1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
Dash hot sauce
Dash Worcestershire sauce
4 cups sharp white cheddar cheese, grated, divided
1 3/4 cups grated Pecorino Romano cheese, divided

For the topping:

1 1/2 cups crushed potato chips
5 slices crisp-cooked bacon, crumbled
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta to al dente.

2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Whisk in the warmed milk and chicken stock, and bring to a simmer, whisking constantly.

3. Stir the dry mustard, salt, black pepper, cayenne, nutmeg, hot sauce, and Worcesterhire sauce into the thickened mixture. Stir in 3 cups of the cheddar and 1 1/4 cups of the Pecorino Romano until the cheeses melt.

4. Add the cooked pasta to the cheese sauce and stir gently to combine. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish.

5. To make the topping, combine the potato chips, remaining 1/2 cup of Pecorino Romano, crumbled bacon, parsley, and the remaining 1 cup of cheddar cheese in a large bowl. Sprinkle the crumb mixture on top of the macaroni and cheese and back for 35 minutes. For an even crunchier topping, finish under the broiler for 3 minutes until golden brown and crisp. Remove from the oven and cool 5 minutes before serving.

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