Happy 2016!! I am having an absolute blast playing with all my new toys I got for Christmas, and yes, most of them are cooking related. I got *several* new cookbooks, and this mac and cheese here is the first recipe I made from one of them.
Yes, I’m aware that it’s the first Monday back to the grindstone after the holiday season, and we’re all supposed to be thinking about healthy eating and weight loss resolutions and whatnot; thus, a pasta dish featuring three cheeses probably isn’t going to be too popular on this day of the year. Oh well. It’s cold outside. Plus, I find that this blog is much more fun and fulfilling when I cook the things I want to make and eat rather than trying to appease the SEO gods. So I must stand by it!
This is a particularly interesting and richly flavored version of the classic comfort food. Like I mentioned, there are three cheeses in here, two of which are smoked cheeses. And the beer adds a hoppy dimension and cuts the richness a little bit. In short, it’s a mac and cheese for grown-ups.
I personally prefer mac and cheese without bread crumbs on top, usually, but if you want it, add 1 cup panko mixed with 3 tbs melted butter on top of the shredded cheese layer right before baking it off. Enjoy!
½ cup unsalted butter
3 tbs all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
2 cups beer (use a pale ale)
2 tsp mustard powder
½ tsp chili powder
6 oz. smoked Cheddar, shredded
6 oz. sharp white Cheddar, shredded
8 oz. smoked Gouda, shredded
16 oz. elbow macaroni
1 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
Fresh black pepper, to taste
Preheat your oven to 350 F. Place 4 large gratin dishes, or individual cast-iron skillets, on a large baking sheet. Grease if necessary, and set aside.
In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Sprinkle in the flour and whisk until smooth and the raw flour taste is cooked out, about 1 minute.
Add the milk and beer. Whisk to combine, then bring to a simmer. Whisk in the mustard and chili powders.
Combine all three cheeses in a large bowl and set aside about ½ cup. Slowly add the mixed cheeses (aside from the ½ cup of course) to the stockpot, about 1 large handful at a time. Let the cheese melt before each new addition.
Now add the macaroni noodles to the cheese sauce, keeping the heat level between medium and medium-high. You want to cook the pasta in the cheese sauce until al dente but not completely done. This takes about 10 minutes, and you will need to stir often enough to prevent scorching on the bottom of the pot. For me, this meant stirring constantly. I thought it was worth it.
Once the noodles are al dente, shut off the heat, season with salt and pepper, and quickly spoon the mixture into the prepared gratin dishes. Top each with the remaining shredded cheese. This is when you’d put on the panko mixture if you choose.
Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes, until the edges are bubbling and the top cheese is melted. If you want, finish the gratins with a grind of black pepper.