Monday, May 30, 2011

How I get myself invited back every year

I take Memorial Day weekend off.  The grill is cold. The doorbell does not ring.  The house is not picked up.  I sleep in.  It's fantastic.

This program is made possible by other people stepping up to the plate and hosting BBQs.  Not just regular BBQ's mind you, which are great but might not merit the state of breathless anticipation which pervades our family as this weekend approaches.  I'm talking about a BBQ where we, the fortunate attendees, get to show up and be handed fresh cherry mojitos while the host grills up a variety of gourmet sausages, slow-smoked ribs, chicken with an Asian spice rub, and burgers with all the fixings. Where we sip our drinks and enjoy a variety of homemade salsas, guacamole, and chips as we chat.  Not to mention where there are more than 10 different kinds of individually hand-packed, custom-made gourmet ice creams to choose from* to go with the warm cobbler and hot-from-the-oven caramel sugar cookies for dessert.

As Maria Von Trapp so aptly put it, somewhere in my wicked childhood, I must have done something good.

But just to be on the safe side for next year's evite, I always bring this.

Macaroni and Cheese with Bacon
Feel very free to get creative with the mix of cheeses here.  Fontina should be a constant, but throw in a blend of Italian cheeses instead of just Parmesan.  Try gruyere for part of the cheddar.  Go with a super sharp cheddar, or a nice jack.   No matter what, it's going to be great, because it comes with bacon!

3/4 package (12 oz.) bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
5 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 lb. dried penne, tube, or elbow macaroni pasta
1 c. whipping cream
1 c. half and half
2 large egg yolks
1/2 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
2 c. grated medium cheddar cheese, packed
2 c. grated Fontina cheese, packed
1 1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
2 c. fresh sourdough breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 425.   Butter a large glass or ceramic baking dish, about 13x9.   Cook bacon in large skillet over medium heat until crisp.  Drain the bacon on paper towels, and remove all but 1 Tbs. of the fat.  Add the garlic and cook until golden, about 2-3 minutes.   Remove from pan and set aside.

Cook pasta as directed on the package, until tender but still firm to bite (the lower end of the cooking time range).

While the pasta is cooking, whisk cream, half and half, egg yolks and nutmeg in a large saucepan to blend.  Add 1 1/2 c. of each type of cheese (you will have 1/2 c. each of cheddar and Fontina left), and stir.  Place saucepan over medium-low heat, and whisk gently to blend until melted and smooth, about 5-10 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

When pasta is done, drain and put into a large mixing bowl. Stir in the reserved bacon and the garlic.  When the cheese sauce is done, pour that over the whole thing, and stir carefully.  Pour the contents of the bowl into your prepared baking dish.

Sprinkle with remaining cheeses.  Bake until sauce bubbles and top is golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Preheat broiler.  Sprinkle macaroni with the breadcrumbs.  Broil until breadcrumbs are golden brown, watching carefully so they don't burn, about 2 minutes.  Allow the mac and cheese to cool for a few minutes, then serve!

Note:  For a crowd, I use 1 1/2 times the recipe, which makes enough to fill a deep baking dish to the brim.  Somehow, it all gets eaten up.

Click to print this recipe!

* OK, I'll mention.  Vanilla, bittersweet chocolate, salted caramel, sour cream with port cherries, tangerine, lavender, mint chip, cinnamon, cinnamon with chocolate fudge swirl, coconut, and coconut pineapple.

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