Bacon Mac & Cheese

It was inevitable that this macaroni and cheese would be made in our house as soon as Shane saw its photo on the cover of the most recent issue of Everyday Food.  He loves macaroni and cheese, and adding bacon to the equation only made it that much more enticing.  Macaroni and cheese is comfort food to me, and I really wanted to hold off on making it until the first burst of chilly fall air arrived.  Fortunately for Shane, he didn’t have to wait long.  Temperatures dipped into the 30’s overnight last week and we had our first frost advisory – it was nothing if not comfort food weather.

Bacon Mac & Cheese

I won’t lie, I was a bit skeptical about this recipe when I read through it.  Most of the macaroni and cheese recipes I’ve made (and loved!) start with a roux (typically a combination of butter and flour) as the basis for the cheese sauce.  There’s neither butter nor flour here.  Instead, evaporated milk and eggs are whisked together before the cheeses are added along with a touch of spice.  This sauce is tossed with the macaroni and bacon, and everything is baked for only 12 minutes in a very hot oven.  The resulting mac and cheese is thick and creamy with great flavor from the winning combination of sharp cheddar and smoky bacon.  The only thing missing is the crunchy topping so often seen on homemade mac and cheese, but to be honest, I didn’t miss it much.  I love how low maintenance this recipe is, and it’s one that’s sure to be a repeat here over the course of the long New England winter.

Three-Cheese and Bacon Macaroni
Everyday Food, October 2010

1/2 pound elbow macaroni
3 slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons (about 1 large clove) minced garlic
3 large eggs
12 oz evaporated milk
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cups (6 oz) grated sharp cheddar
1/2 cup (2 oz) grated Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup (1 oz) finely grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 475 F.

Cook the bacon in a small skillet set over medium heat until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crisp.  Add the garlic to the pan and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon and garlic to a medium bowl.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiled salted water for 6 minutes (the pasta will be undercooked).  Drain, then add the pasta to the bowl with the bacon and garlic and stir to combine.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and evaporated milk.  Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, cayenne, nutmeg and the cheeses and mix well.  Finally, add the macaroni/bacon mixture to the bowl and stir to coat the pasta evenly.

Transfer the pasta mixture to an 8-inch square baking pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray (a 2-qt baking dish would also work).  Gently spread to form an even layer.  Bake for 12 minutes, or until the sauce is just bubbling at the edges.  Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

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