Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese

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It’s well known among Americans that mac & cheese is one of the best comfort foods. You could probably go to almost every home in America and find a box of instant mac.  Although a boxed version is good when you need a quick fix, nothing compares to homemade mac & cheese.  This mac & cheese has smoked gouda and an aged cheddar cheese, crispy bacon, and green onion.  The sauce is rich and creamy with penne pasta to absorb every cheesy bit.

Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover

What you’ll need:

Bacon

Dried Penne

Egg

Butter

All-purpose flour

half-and-half

milk

dry mustard

smoked gouda

sharp aged cheddar cheese

Cajun seasoning

Green onion

Salt & Pepper

Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Dice the bacon and add into a skillet at medium heat.  Cook until fat is rendered and starting to brown.  Remove the bacon from the pan and pat dry the bacon to remove any excess fat.  Set aside.  In a pot of boiling salted water, cook the dried penne to package directions.  Thinly slice the green onions on a bias and set aside.  Meanwhile, grate all your cheese, both the gouda and the sharp cheddar.  Reserve about ½ cup of the shredded cheese, the rest goes into a bowl, set aside.

Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover

Using a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the flour and dry mustard; whisk until it incorporates.  This creates the thickening agent for the sauce, called a roux.  Continually whisk the roux until it turns a sandy blonde color and has a nutty aroma.  Keep whisking the roux and slowly add the half-and-half, then add the milk.  Don’t stop whisking during this part!  Turn the heat to a lower setting and whisk until the mixture starts to thicken.

In a bowl, whisk the egg and add about ¼ to ½ cup of the thickened sauce to the egg.  Mix until it is all incorporated and add back into the pot.  Don’t stop whisking or you will curdle the egg!  Keep whisking until the sauce becomes smooth and uniform in color.  Tempering an egg into the sauce creates structure to the sauce and a creamy texture.

Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover

Once thickened, add the shredded gouda, cheddar, and cajun seasoning.  Keep whisking until the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth.  It should coat the back of a spoon.

Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover

When the sauce has come together, add the bacon, sliced green onion, and penne pasta.  Mix it all together until everything is coated and evenly distributed.  You can serve it like this, but I take it a step further.

Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover

Fill 5 oz ramekins to the top with the mac and cheese.  Top each ramekin with the reserved shredded cheese.  Place the ramekins onto a sheet tray and place the sheet tray into the oven.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the cheese has melted and started to bubble.  Wait 5 minutes to cool down and eat!

Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover
Personal Photo/ Janine Hanover

Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese with Bacon & Green Onion

Serves 6

Ingredients:

½ lb. thick cut bacon, uncooked

1 lb. dried penne

1 egg

4 Tablespoons butter

¼ cup all-purpose flour

2 cups half-and-half

½ cup milk

2 teaspoons dry mustard

7 oz smoked gouda, grated with 1 oz reserved

8 oz sharp aged cheddar cheese, grated with 1 oz reserved

1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning

½ cup thinly sliced green onion

Salt, to taste

Pepper, to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Cook dried penne to package directions, set aside and keep warm.
  3. Dice the thick-cut bacon and add to a skillet over medium heat, cook until just browned. Remove the bacon from the pan and press with an absorbent towel to soak up excess fat.  Set aside.
  4. In a large, deep pot, melt the butter and then add the flour and dry mustard.  Whisk constantly.  The butter/flour mix will bubble, do not let it burn.  This will create a roux.  Once the roux reaches a sandy blonde color and has a nutty aroma slowly add the half and half.  Keep whisking until incorporated and then add the milk.  Reduce the heat to a lower setting, and whisk often, until mixture has thickened.
  5. In a small bowl, beat the egg.  Take about ¼ cup of the sauce and add to beaten egg, whisking constantly. Add the mix back into the sauce and whisk until the sauce is smooth and uniform in color.
  6. Add in the 7 oz of smoked gouda and 7 oz of the sharp aged cheddar cheese, making sure to have 1 oz of each cheese reserved.  Constantly stir the sauce until the cheese is completely melted.  Add in the Cajun seasoning and salt and pepper to your liking.
  7. Add the cooked penne pasta, bacon, and sliced green onion to the pot with the cheese sauce.  Using a spatula or wooden spoon, mix everything together until everything is coated in sauce and the bacon and green onion are evenly distributed.
  8. In a 5 oz ramekin, fill it almost to the top with the mac and cheese.  Top with a little of the reserved cheese.  Place on a sheet tray and bake for 20-25 minutes.  The cheese should be melted and slightly browned.  Let cool 5 minutes before eating.

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