This year has kinda sucked, so I’ve fallen back hard on recipes I already know how to make, and haven’t really pushed myself to try many new ones. But I saw this about a month ago, and felt like this would be a fun riff to try. And with the cold turn that finally came this weekend, this seemed like the perfect thing to make for the week. This is definitely getting added to my long term repertoire – it is the good shit.

A few variations: I used smoked cheddar instead of the recommended medium cheddar, used gigli from Trader Joe’s for the macaroni, held off on the cayenne, and didn’t quite get the toasted panko right. But oh man. Bacon, cheese, and a good kick from the kimchi that gets mellowed out by the dairy a bit. You could probably add a dash of shichimi togarashi for a more interesting kick. I’ll try it with the next batch.

Bacon and Kimchi Mac and Cheese

Ingredients

  • 6 slices bacon
  • .5 lb macaroni of choice
  • 5 T unsalted butter, divided into 4 T and 1 T
  • 4 T flour
  • 2.25 c whole milk
  • 1.75 c shredded smoked cheddar cheese (recipe recommends a medium cheddar, go with whatever cheddar your heart desires)
  • Pinch ground pepper and sea salt
  • 2/3 c chopped kimchi
  • .75 c panko
  • (1 t cayenne, gonna try shichimi togarashi next run around)

Heat your oven to 400 F, place the bacon slices on a foil lined baking sheet, and bake for appx 15 mins until done to your preference. Set aside and cool. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and while you wait for that to happen, chop up your bacon. Add your macaroni of choice and cook according to package directions. Drain and set aside (pic 1).

In a large pot (possibly the same one), melt 4 T of unsalted butter over medium high heat, and once melted, add the flour and whisk constantly to make a roux (pic 2). Slowly add the milk to the roux in the pot, continuing to whisk until the sauce thickens. Once thickened, add in the cheese and stir until it’s melted and smooth (pic 3), followed by the salt and pepper, and finally the bacon and chopped kimchi (pic 4). Finally, gently fold the cooked pasta into the cheese sauce (pic 5), and pour it all into a 9 x 13 in baking dish (pic 6).

Meanwhile, melt the remaining T of butter in the microwave, and then stir together with the panko and sprinkle over the mac and cheese. Bake for 15 mins until the cheese is good and bubbly and the panko are golden brown (pic 7).

Some days, you’ve had a real fucking long week, and you are looking for some real comfort food, but also to turn the comfort factor up to ten by adding some really, really good cheese. This is possibly my new favorite mac and cheese recipe, ever. Getting all the cheese properly grated takes some time, but the end result is so, so worth it.

I picked up most of the cheese from the farmer’s market, and for the brie, I went with a triple cream brie, because yes. I also substituted panko for bread crumbs, because panko are the best version of bread crumbs (light, airy, and they stay crispier longer). It’s also going to last me a good long while, too, because of the sheer amount this makes. 

Cheesemonger’s Mac and Cheese
Lasts a damn long time; at week two of this as a main for lunch

Ingredients

  • 1.5 c coarsely grated gruyere cheese (I used what I had leftover from making toast soldiers, which was about maybe half of a 6 oz block, and a bit of a .33 lb block to top it off)
  • 1.5 c coarsely grated aged sharp cheddar (I used a 6 year aged white from the local farmer’s market, about a third total of a pound block)
  • 1.5 c brie, rinds removed and diced (I cut the rinds off of a pound of triple cream brie and just diced it all up, probably ended up being closer to 2 c)
  • 4 T butter
  • .25 c flour
  • pinch thyme (fresh thyme leaves if you have them, otherwise ground works fine)
  • ~1 t nutmeg
  • 4 c whole milk
  • 1.75 c panko
  • 1 lb penne pasta

Mix your grated gruyere, aged sharp cheddar, and brie together in a bowl, and reserve one cup. Chill both the bowl and the reserved cup. 

Melt your butter in a large pot over medium heat, and as soon as it melts, add in your flour, whisking until the mixture turns golden brown. (You could probably also brown the butter to amp up the flavor even more.)  Add in your thyme and nutmeg, followed by your milk, whisking until it’s thickened and smooth (about four minutes). Add the 3 c of cheese mixture, and stir until the cheese has melted into the sauce, and is smooth.

In another pot, cook your penne according to the directions on the package, and preheat your oven to 375 while it cooks.  After draining the pasta, take a large glass pan and pour the cooked pasta into it.  Pour the cheese sauce over it, and toss to coat. Take that remaining 1 c you had of the cheese mixture, spread it over the top of the pasta and cheese sauce, and then spread the 1.75 c of panko over the dish. Bake for about twenty minutes until the panko start to turn golden brown and the sauce bubbles (see the difference between pictures six and seven). 

(The original recipe has you baking these in separate ramekins, but that seems a bit unecessary to me. In addition, the instructions at the end aren’t that clear as to how long you need to actually bake it – there are two sets of instructions for doing it ahead and doing it day of, and they’re not separated out – but as far as I can tell the twenty minutes at 375 is how long you’re supposed to bake it.)

This is one of those so stupidly easy, why did I not already think of doing this sort of recipes.  Having one of those nights where you don’t want to make much more than mac and cheese, but want to class it up a bit? Just add alcohol!  Literally.

Hard Cider Mac and Cheese
Lasts one meal

  • one box mac and cheese (go with the shaped ones for maximum adultitude)
  • milk
  • one bottle hard cider (you’ll only use a third of the bottle)
  • whatever spices you put in your mac and cheese – I typically go with dill, pepper, and garlic powder

Make the boxed mac and cheese according to the directions on the box, up to the part where you add the cheese to the strained noodles. Add your cheese packet, less milk than you would normally (I used about half of what I usually do), and a third of your bottle of hard cider (I used Woodchuck’s Fall cider).  Then, mix in whatever spices you do with your mac and cheese (and if you don’t, do that, it makes it taste less bland), and enjoy!