With summer well and truly upon us, it’s time to look at another interesting side dish for al fresco cooking and dining. We’d had delicious mac ‘n’ cheese a few times in the USA, so my wife tried to replicate it at home. She excelled herself (as usual), this classic crispy mac ‘n’ cheese beats any we had on t’other side of pond.
Adding Smoke Flavours
Whilst not mandatory, this awesome side dish can be further enhanced by introducing smoke aromatics. There are three ways of doing this:
- Buy smoked cheese.
- Smoke your own cheese (see this blog post for details).
- Cook the dish in a Big Green Egg (or similar) using smoking chunks.
I found smoking my own cheese gave a tastier result, also smoked Red Leicester isn’t readily available. This does need advance planning as the cheese needed to be smoked a couple of weeks in advance, on a relatively cool day.
- Two saucepans
- Shallow casserole dish
- Measuring jugs
- Cheese grater
- 500g dried macaroni
- 350g Red Leicester
- 350g mature cheddar
- 125g buffalo mozzarella
- 170ml double cream
- 530ml milk
- 50g plain flour
- 75g butter plus a bit more
- ½tsp salt
- ½tsp black pepper
- ½tsp mustard power
- Apple smoking chunk (optional)
The milk and cream quantities can be adjusted, providing the total volume is 700ml.
- Pre-heat the oven or Big Green Egg (indirect setup) to 180°C/350°F. If using an Egg, when the coals are glowing and the temperature is stable, toss on an apple smoking chunk and wait for the thin blue line of smoke.
- Meanwhile, grate all of the Red Leicester and cheddar cheeses. Cut up the mozzarella into small pieces.
- In a saucepan over low heat, melt 75g butter and add the flour. Gradually add the milk and then the cream, gently whisking the mixture to ensure no lumps form.
- Once all of the milk has been added, gradually add the mozzarella pieces and all but a handful of the grated Red Leicester and mature cheddar. Keep whisking gently to create the cheese sauce. Simmer over a very low heat.
- In the second saucepan, cook the pasta for one minute less than the packaging asks for. Drain the pasta and return it to the still warm pan. Add a knob of butter, coating the pasta as the butter melts.
- Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta, gently combining the two without breaking the pasta. Once combined, decant the mixture into the casserole dish. Place the dish into the oven/Egg, cook for 40-45 mins.
- Take the casserole dish out of the oven (or open the Egg). Sprinkle the remaining grated cheese over the top of the mac ‘n’ cheese. Return to the oven (or close the Egg) for 10-15 mins until cheese is golden brown.
Hints, Tips and Pictures
- Let the dish sit for five minutes before serving, it will be hot and bubbling. This video clip is ours straight from the oven.
- Leftovers can be kept in the fridge for as long as the ingredients were marked as being good for. However …
- … whilst dishes such as over the top smoked chili get better over a few days as the smoke tastes integrate, this isn’t the case for mac ‘n’ cheese. It intensifies during the first 24 hours, but then fades.
- The butter coating on the pasta, in addition to stopping the pasta sticking together, will also prevent the pasta from absorbing the cheese sauce and becoming soggy.