Even More Over the Top Mac and Cheese

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Well, time to revisit the recipe since a number of people asked for it at a New Year’s Eve party we attended at Domanico Cellars. The original recipe is here, but this is the one I specifically made on NYE

The Software

1/2 lb of elbow macaroni

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 lb. good quality bacon, preferably thick cut

1 1/2 tablespoon powdered mustard

3 cups whole milk

1/2 cup onion, minced (about 3/4 of a medium onion)

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 large egg (lightly beaten)

12 oz Sharp Cheddar  shredded

1 cup panko breadcrumbs

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Black pepper to taste

The Recipe

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Shred the cheese and separate into 2 parts, one containing 1/4 of the cheese and 1 containing 3/4 of the cheese.
  • Cook the bacon, reserving the fat. Mince into 1/4 inch pieces when cooled.
  • Mince the onion. Add to the pan that you cooked the bacon in with 1 tsp of bacon fat and cook over medium heat until browned and slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
  • Bring 2 quarts of salted water to a boil in a 4 qt pan.
  • Add pasta and cook for about 5 minutes to al dente and drain.
  • While the water is coming to a boil, melt the butter in a 3 qt pan over medium heat.
  • Whisk in the flour and cook until pale blond (about 3 minutes) stirring about every minute.
  • Whisk in onion, paprika and mustard until combined (about 1 minute)
  • Slowly add the milk and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until slightly thickened, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat.
  • Slowly add 2 ladles full of the milk mixture to the egg, whisking as you add it. This will temper the egg to keep it from cooking and turning into scrambled eggs. I usually do this in a measuring cup. If there are any lumps (i.e. cooked egg), start over with another egg.
  • Add the egg mixture into the pot and stir a couple of times to combine.
  • Add 3/4 of the cheese to the sauce and stir until the cheese is melted, 1-2 minutes.
  • Add the pasta to the sauce and add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Add the bacon to the pasta and combine.
  • In the pan that you cooked the onions, add one tablespoon of bacon fat over medium high heat. Add the breadcrumbs and toss. Cook until they become golden brown, about 4-5 minutes, stirring constantly.
  • Put pasta and sauce in a 4 qt casserole dish, cover with the remaining cheese and breadcrumbs and bake in the over for 20 minutes.
  • Let stand for 5 minutes and serve with your favorite hot sauce (or not)

IMPORTANT – don’t fully cook the pasta – it will finish cooking in the oven and it will be completely mushy if you cook it fully on the stove. Also, don’t rinse the pasta after you drain it.

Notes Timing is important on this recipe, so I highly suggest preparing all of your ingredients before you start cooking – it really makes the job much easier when you are not trying to measure something while watching something else. I also highly recommend freezing the cheese for about 10 minutes prior to shredding – it makes it much easier. The shredding can be done in a food processor or using a box grater. Don’t buy the pre-shredded cheese, it really doesn’t taste the same and shredding yourself will take you 2 or 3 minutes extra and it will be worth it. I really like Beecher’s Flagship Cheese in this recipe, but if you aren’t local to Seattle, you probably won’t be able to find it, so just use your favorite cheddar.  I really like Skagit River Ranch’s bacon for this recipe, but any good quality bacon will work. The pasta and sauce can be made in advance and then put in the oven later – just put it in the casserole dish, covered in the fridge and when you are ready to cook it, remove it from the fridge, uncover and let it sit at room temp for 15 minutes while you warm the oven. The leftovers also make really good fried mac and cheese the next day, that is, if there is any left.


Bacon Bread Pudding

By Iron Chef Leftovers
Photos By AJ Coltrane

Oh so tasty and oh so bad for you.

The Odd Bits dinner I made a while back was supposed to end with a Pig’s Blood Ice Cream. Everyone cringes when I say this, but don’t knock it until you try it. It is actually healthier than traditionally made ice cream as the blood replaces the eggs as the thickening agent and you need to use less volume of blood than you do eggs and the blood is higher in vitamins and minerals and lower in fat and cholesterol than the eggs. It is also the most intensely flavored chocolate ice cream you will ever have and no, it does not taste like blood – you actually wouldn’t even know blood is in there unless someone mentioned it.

That being said, it is freaking impossible to find usable blood in Seattle. You can get a “blood solution” but it is like jelly and will not return to a liquid state, which is fine for making blood sausage, but not so much for ice cream. As a result, I had to go to plan B on desert and went with Bacon Bread Pudding. Not exactly odd bits, but you generally don’t find many people having bacon for dessert (although you should). The nice thing about this recipe is that it is easy and can easily feed a large number of people with a minimum of effort. I adapted this recipe from Chef Larry Monaco’s original Maple Donut and Bacon Bread Pudding.

The Software

Bread Pudding:
2 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs, beaten
2 cups milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 loaf (1.75 lbs) brioche, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup bacon fat
1 lb thick sliced bacon, cooked crispy

1 1/2 cup of cream
1/2 cup brandy or bourbon
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup bacon fat or 1 stick of butter

The Bread Pudding
Spread the cubed bread on 2 rimmed baking sheets and put into a 300 degree oven for 1 hour a to 1 hour, 15 minutes until they are dried, rotating the pans half way through the process. You are essentially making brioche croutons. Let cool and place in a large bowl

Cook the bacon until it is crispy, reserving all of the fat. Dice the bacon into 1/4 inch pieces and set aside

In a bowl, combine the eggs, sugar milk and vanilla and whisk to combine. Pour the mixture over the bread and toss gently to combine (you don’t want to break up the bread). Let sit for 10 minutes for the liquid to absorb.

In a separate bowl, combine the bacon fat, brown sugar and bacon and toss to combine.

Grease a 9x13x2 baking dish with either butter or bacon fat. Put the bread mixture in first, arranging in one even layer, adding any remaining liquid from the bowl. Sprinkle the brown sugar bacon mixture on top in an even layer and bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes until set (you are looking for an internal temp of about 165-170 degrees). Remove from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

The Sauce
Add the fat, sugar and cream to a saucepan over medium heat, whisking until the sugar is incorporated, approximately 3-5 minutes. Add the alcohol and bring to just below a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer for 5-7 minutes until slightly thickened. Drizzle over the bread pudding.

I used bacon fat, but butter can be substituted for it. I would recommend using very high quality bacon in this dish as it is going to be a dominant flavor. I would caution using bacon that has been cured in maple syrup as it might cause this dish to become too sweet. The drying out the bread in the oven is critical to the creamy texture of the dish – stale bread does not absorb the liquid as well as the dried bread and will lead to a less creamy dish. If you can’t find brioche, you can use just about any bread (challah will work really well), just make sure you can slice it thickly. This recipe will serve 12 people easily, so you can scale it down accordingly.