I am a culinary genius. It's true. This entire week I have been thinking of how I could concoct the perfect macaroni and cheese. Today I decided I would go through with my masterful plan, and invited my friend Ashlee to be my taste testing guinea pig (evil laughs). Bear in mind that when I am cooking I usually don't measure anything. I just add a little of whatever spice I'm using at a time until it tastes good, so forgive me because I don't really have exact measurements for this recipe. Anyways, here it is.
Bacon and Mushroom Smoked Macaroni and Cheese
-1 Box of a pasta of your choice (I used radiatore because I wanted a pasta that would hold the cheese sauce well.)
-Chicken broth, enough to cover your pasta
-A splash of olive oil
-1/4 white onion, chopped
-1 tbsp chopped garlic (approx.)
-8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
-4 Strips of bacon, diced
-1 8oz. block of Velveeta cheese (I know, I know...but hear me out. I prefer the creaminess I can get with Velveeta, as opposed to making a beschamel based cheese sauce, because I like leftovers. Doing it this way keeps the pasta from getting smushy when you reheat it.)
-3 cups of grated cheese (I used an 8 oz. block of smoked cheddar, which grated to about two cups, and then about another cup of smoked gouda and regular cheddar. You do not have to use these cheeses, this is just what I wanted to throw in there.)
-4 tbsp butter
-About 1 c of Panko breadcrumbs
-1 3/4 c milk (approx.)
-Salt to taste
-Fresh pepper, to taste
-Cayenne pepper to taste (use more if you want yours a little spicier)
-Cumin, to taste (it adds a nice smokiness to the dish)
-Garlic powder, to taste
-Parsley, for garnish (you can leave this off if you want. I think it added a nice pop of color at the end.)
Preheat your oven to 425
1. Begin by rendering your bacon in a pan over medium-high heat. While you are cooking your bacon, grate your cheeses and set aside.
2. Cover the pasta in chicken broth, drizzle in some olive oil and a bit of salt and bring to a boil. Cook the pasta until it is al dente, drain and set aside.
3. When the bacon is crisp, remove it from the pan and set it aside on a paper towel to drain. Pour off all but about two tablespoons of the bacon fat.
4. In the bacon fat, begin cooking the onions and garlic until the onions are translucent. Toss in your mushrooms and season with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper and cumin. Cook until the mushrooms are browned.
5. While the mushrooms are cooking, heat the milk and 2 tbsp of the butter over medium heat in a sauce pan. You do not want the milk to boil, you just want it to become hot. Season with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, and cumin. Whisk in your cheeses until they are melted and the mixture is smooth.
6. In the microwave, melt the remaining butter in a microwave safe dish. Mix in the breadcrumbs, season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, cumin and cayenne pepper. Set the breadcrumb mixture aside.
7. YAY! You are now ready to assemble this macaroni and cheese of epicness. Pour in the mushroom and onion mixture to the pasta and mix. Next pour in the cheese sauce and thoroughly mix until everything is combined. Pour the whole thing into a 9x13 baking dish. Top with the bacon crumbles and the breadcrumb mixture. Bake until the breadcrumbs are golden brown and the cheese is bubbly. Garnish with parsley.
8. Invite a friend over and enjoy!