|Smoky Mac & Cheese with Mmmm Bacon!|
What 'cha need:
1 LB Macaroni Noodles - or Corkscrew, or whatever you like
1/2 LB Bacon
1/2 Small Onion
2 Cloves Minced Garlic
2 Tablespoons Leftover Bacon Grease (fm above)
2 Tablespoons Flour
2 Cups Sharp Cheddar, Shredded (Medium cheddar, or a blend works fine too!)
3 to 4 Cups of Milk
1 Teaspoon Smoked Paprika
Optional: 1/2 - 1 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
There's a couple of ways you can make this - stovetop (super quick) or baked. Baked is nice when you have a little extra time and want to take it to the next level. Either way, here's how to start:
As you bring a large pot of salted water to boil, cut the bacon into pieces and cook over the stovetop with the onion and garlic until the bacon is nice and crispy, and the onions are translucent. Scoop with a slotted spoon into a bowl lined with paper towels. Keep about two tablespoons of bacon grease in the pan, and add the flour, smoked paprika, and cayenne pepper (if desired).
The flour mixture is your "rue" - cook the rue over medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk for about a minute to cook off the flour taste. Then add the milk and stir until any clumps of rue are gone and the sauce begins to thicken. At this point, TAKE THE PAN OFF THE HEAT and add the shredded cheese, stirring constantly until smooth.
Tip: if the rue is too hot when you add the cheese, it'll be a grainy, yucky mess, so be sure to remove it from the heat first! Learned that one the hard way...
Once your noodles are al dente (slightly undercooked) drain them, then add them back to the pot with your cheese sauce and bacon bits. Combine and enjoy! And don't worry about the noodles - they will continue to cook in the sauce and it'll be delish - trust me! If you really want to, you can cook them until soft, then enjoy!
Now, if you want to make this extra special... Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Make recipe same as above but whatever you do, DON'T overcook the noodles! You want them to be slightly undercooked when they go into the oven so they don't get mushy. ;)
Once everything's combined, pour into a 13 x 9 baking dish. Top with about a 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs mixed with 2 tablespoons of melted butter and bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes. Once you remove from the oven, let stand for 10-15 minutes before serving.
Tip: while baking, if the breadcrumbs get too toasty, just cover the dish with foil and finish baking.
I really hope you all enjoy this dish as much as we do! Please let me know if you make it, and what you think!