- Preparation Time:
20 minutes Cook Time: 15 minutes each
When you think about a perfect tag team, what do you think of? Bonnie and Clyde? Sonny and Cher? Harlem Heat (i.e.Stevie Ray and Booker T)? Bert and Ernie? I say Cheese and Bacon. You put them on a burger and, voila, you’ve got yourself a deluxe burger. You put them on an English muffin and you’ve got yourself “Quick and Easy English Muffins of Awesomeness”. Now, how about adding bacon to Mac n’ Cheese?! I know… I just blew your mind. You’re welcome.
I’m pairing this dish with some veggies (bacon wrapped, of course) to lighten it up slightly. This dish is richer than Bill Gates. I promise you that it will be chock full of cheesy, bacony goodness. I decided to also grill up some Italian sausages and use the Mac n’ Cheese as a side dish, but, to be honest, the Mac was the king of my plate.
I decided to go with four types of cheese: a five year old Cheddar for its sharpness and complexity, a one year old Cheddar for a milder flavour, smoked Gruyere for its texture and obvious smokiness, and Parmigiano Reggiano for its bite. You can do any combination, really – it’s completely up to you. I recommend staying away from processed cheeses, though. Although they melt well, the complexity of flavour just isn’t there.
Bacon Wrapped Asparagus
- 1 bunch Asparagus
- 8 strips Maple Leaf Bacon
- 2 tbsp Olive Oil
Black Pepper, to taste
Mac n’ Cheese
- 15 strips Maple Leaf Bacon
- 1 lb Fusilli or Elbow Macaroni (or any suitable pasta)
- 6 tbsp Unsalted Butter
- 4 tbsp All Purpose Flour
- 2 cups Milk
- 1 cup Table Cream
- ½ tbsp Cayenne Pepper
- ½ tbsp Nutmeg
- 2 Egg Yolks
- 1 lb Sharp Cheddar
- 4 oz. Gruyere or Fontina Cheese
- 4 oz. Parmigiano Reggiano
- 1 cup Bread Crumbs
qSalt and Black Pepper, to taste
1. We’re first going to get ALL of our prep out of the way, just like in a restaurant’s kitchen. This will make our lives remarkably easier later. Our list:
- Put pot of salted water on to boil
- Preheat oven to 400°F
- Fry and chop the 15 strips of bacon (Yes, you may have two pans going at once)
- Grate all the cheeses
- Wash all of the asparagus
A few words of advice: Store the grated cheese in the fridge until you’re ready to use it. This will prevent it from melting and sticking together, making it easier to mix into your sauce later. Also, you have to remove the woody bottom ends of the asparagus. A lot of people elect to cut the bottoms of with a knife, but “snapping” them by hand leads to better results (i.e. insurance that NO woody parts will be left). To do this, grab the bottom of the asparagus with thumb and index finger and just shy of half way up the stalk with your other thumb and index finger. When you bend the asparagus it will snap precisely where the woody bit ends and the tender part begins, yielding perfect asparagus every time.
2. Toss your freshly snapped asparagus in a bowl with your olive oil and black pepper and mix around. Group the asparagus in bunches of three or four and wrap each bunch with one strip of raw bacon. Place these on a lined or greased broiler pan or baking sheet and throw them in the oven. They will take about 12-15 minutes in the 425°F oven, flipping half way. Once the asparagus is out, turn your oven down to 350°F.
3. Your water should be boiling by now, so throw your pasta down. While that boils, we’re going to prepare our béchamel sauce. This is just a fancy term for a thickened cream sauce. First, we need to make our roux, or thickening agent. On medium heat, melt 4 tbsp of butter. Add your flour and with a whisk, quickly mix everything together until all the flour is incorporated and it looks like a thick paste. No time for pictures; you have to work quickly. As soon as the butter and flour are adequately combined, throw in your milk, cream, cayenne pepper and nutmeg and continue to whisk. Your sauce will gradually thicken over about 5 minutes.
4. Strain your pasta and put it back into the pot. It’s probably your biggest pot so we’ll use it to mix everything together. Take your béchamel sauce and dump the entire thing over the pasta and mix. Throw in your egg yolks and keep mixing. Finally, add the cheese. Give everything a good stir. Don’t worry if the cheese isn’t melting at this point (Yes, it’s a lot of cheese – tasty, tasty cheese) because everything will melt in the oven. Dump the mix into a casserole dish and set aside for a couple of minutes.
5. What about all that wonderful bacon, you ask? Patience, young grasshopper. Melt a couple of tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan. Stir in your breadcrumbs and chopped bacon until the butter is evenly distributed through the mixture. Spread this mixture atop your mac ’n cheese.
6. Whack the casserole into the oven at 350°F for about 12-15 minutes. This is where the magic happens. Everything just oozes together, and flavours marry. You can put it under the broiler for the last couple of minutes to really crisp up the crumby bacon layer.
The result: Heaven. Pure cheesy heaven.
Think the four-cheese wasn’t worth it? Think I should of tried another type? What are your thoughts? Not bacon enough?