They say you can’t go home again. Turns out, you can - you just shouldn’t. Because if you do go back to visit the place where you grew up, you’ll wind up having lunch with one of your oldest friends at one of your favorite places & the menu will list Smoked Gouda Mac n’ Cheese as a side item, and you will insist on trying it. And that’s where the trouble will start.
Mac n’ Cheese at it’s worst still comes in pretty high on my list of favorite things. I cannot resist ordering it whenever it’s available. And it was pretty delicious that day. It was so good, in fact, that I decided to re-create it at home for a party a few weeks later. Of course, once I got started it got a little out of hand… why must I add a pork product to everything??
The party, incidentally, was for that same old friend (old as in, I’ve known her for 15 years, not that she’s old. That’s a very important distinction.) and her burgeoning jewelry design business. You can find her on-line here. Her stuff is beautiful – I wear a piece every single day. And she didn’t even pay me to say that!
Disclaimer: This recipe is insane. There is no redeeming nutritional value in it AT ALL. If the Surgeon General knew I had come up with this, there’d be federal agents at my door to arrest me for endangering people’s health. It is BAD for you. It is also so good… don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Smoked Gouda Mac n’ Cheese (with Bacon)
This makes a huge casserole dish-full. I’m not going to dictate how many people that should feed – but for the sake of your waistline, it should feed a lot.
What’s in it:
1 stick butter
5.5 cups whole milk
.5 cup all-purpose flour
2 tea salt, plus more for pasta water
.5 tea ground black pepper
.25 tea cayenne pepper
4.5 cups (18 oz.) Smoked Gouda cheese, grated
2 cups (8oz.) Monterrey Jack cheese, grated
8 strips bacon
3 stalks green onion, thinly sliced, green & white parts
1 pound small penne pasta
1 cup store-bought bread crumbs
How I make it:
Smoked Gouda is a really soft cheese so I’ve found it’s easiest to grate it using a food processor. Just buzz it through using the grating attachment. It will all melt down so it doesn’t matter how it looks, just that it gets small enough to melt evenly.
Fry bacon until crisp over medium heat. Reserve drippings. Crumble cooked bacon into small pieces and set aside.
Melt 2 TB of the butter & combine with breadcrumbs, set aside.
Put a large pot of water over high heat to cook pasta. Once water comes to a boil, add a palmful of salt & cook pasta to al dente, according to package directions. When pasta is done, drain, rinse with cool water to stop the cooking process & set aside.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In large pot (probably the same one you cooked the pasta in) melt remaining butter over medium heat. Add reserved bacon fat. When butter/fat starts to bubble, add flour & stir with a whisk for one minute.
Add milk, a little at a time, and continue whisking to keep mixture smooth & lump-free. Once all milk has all been added, continue cooking over medium heat, stirring regularly until mixture begins to thicken. Don’t let it boil too hard, it should be gently bubbling.
Once the milk has thickened a good bit, reduce heat to low. Add salt, pepper & cayenne. Add cheese (save one cup of Monterrey Jack for top), a cup at a time and stir in between, to melt it into sauce. It will become very thick. Your arm will be tired at this point.
Remove from heat completely. Add cooked pasta, green onions & bacon. Stir to distribute everything evenly & pour mixture into a large (preferably greased) casserole or oven-safe dish. Sprinkle top with remaining cheese and buttery breadcrumbs. Bake until top is golden & sides are bubbling, about 25-30 minutes.
Now, this part is important… Call your doctor & warn them you might suffer a massive coronary. Perhaps ask them to go ahead & send an ambulance to your house. Just in case…