Mac & Cheese

Do you remember when you were kid growing up in America and you saw that nice blue box of dried macaroni and cheese powder stuff? And you couldn’t wait for that creamy cheesy pasta to touch your childhood tastebuds, right? It was pretty delicious back then. But, have you tried the same thing now? Eh, not so good… Our palette has grown more mature so that means some of the food that we loved as a child should be mature as well. Enter this version of Mac & Cheese.

It’s been deemed “Adult Mac & Cheese.” First, the cheese itself gets upgraded from regular cheddar cheese, to a more gourmet fontina and smoked cheddar cheese blend. Then some additional adult ingredients getting added in such as applewood bacon, spinach, shrimp and a little bit of a spicy kick. Put it all together and you get this creamy yummy sensation on your now matured tastebuds.

Ingredients: (I doubled the recipe because I was making this for a potluck)
1 16oz box of pasta (I used medium shells. Use any pasta where sauce can get trapped in)
1 10-oz package of applewood bacon
10 large shallots, minced
2 clove garlic, mined
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cup white wine ( I personally like to use vermouth )
1 quart cream
2 cup grated fontina ( a good substitute is gouda)
1 cup grated smoked sharp Cheddar
4 tablespoons grated parmigiano reggiano
36 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 cups gently packed baby spinach
Kosher salt and ground pepper
Sriachia hot sauce, to taste
1 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley leaves

All the ingredients, wow, it seems like a lot!

There is a lot of prep work so I suggest the following:
– If you can, get uncooked shrimp that are deveined already. Peeling can be quick, but deveining takes a long time. The process of deveining is removing the intestinal track of the shrimp along the back. Make sure you leave no black stuff behind.
– Grate all the cheeses first, put it together in a container and store in the fridge until you need it.
– Mince the shallots and garlic together and set aside.
– Lastly, work on the bacon.

Making the pasta:

Cook according to box direction. Bring salted water to a boil and add the whole box. Cook until the pasta is soft, but still has a little solidness to it. Set aside.

Making the cheese sauce:

Chop up the bacon. This is a whole package, makes about 2 cups.

Set the stove to medium high heat (7 on my electric stove). Fry the bacon until all the fat renders out and is crispy. Make sure you are stirring to prevent burning. I use my trusty wooden spoon for this.

Do not drain the bacon fat, it’s used for flavoring. So add the minced shallots and garlic into the pan and fry until shallots are translucent. Again, make sure you keep stirring.

When I first started cooking, I had no idea what translucent meant in terms of food. Now I know it means when the shallots are almost see through, like in this picture.

Add the flour to the pan and stir once again. We are making a roux which will thicken the sauce. Mix it around for about 5 minutes. We are toasting the flour making it more of a nutty flavor.

Add the wine and cook it down until almost dry. The wine flavor will infuse itself into the flour and bacon.

You’ll know the wine has reduced to almost dry when you can do this with a spoon and the mixture doesn’t fall back onto itself.

Add the cream. And reduce the heat so the mixture simmers. I put my stove to medium which is around 4 on my electric stove.

I added a few squirts of the hot sauce and stir it in. The amount is up to you.

After simmering for about 10 minutes, the sauce should be able to stick to the back of a spoon without too much dripping. Remove from heat.

Now add the spinach, shrimp and cheeses to the mixture. Even though the pan is not on the heat anymore, the mixture still has residual heat and will be able to melt the cheese and cook the shrimp. This is important so the shrimp doesn’t overcook and turn rubbery, and the cheese can melt evenly into the mixture. Fontina cheese melts very nicely. The cheddar cheese didn’t.

You’ll know that the cheese sauce is done with all the spinach wilted, the cheese melted, and the shrimp is orange.

Putting it together:
Preheat the broiler.

The pasta has been drained and put into a large roasting pan.

Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and mix well.

Pour the bread crumbs over the pasta and try to cover the entire top.

Sprinkle the chopped parsley leaves over the entire top.

Stick it under the broiler for 3 minutes or until the top gets golden brown.

Scoop a little for yourself.

Serve and enjoy!

– Notes:
This is a tried and true recipe for me, so I’m able to figure out what ingredients to switch out for different flavors.

— Pasta: Shells, bowties, curly pasta
My favorite: Curly pasta, I like it in the grooves
— Nice melting cheeses: Gouda, Fontina, Mozzarella (not the fresh kind)
My favorite: Gouda
— Wine substitutes: Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, and Vermouth
My favorite: Vermouth
— Bacon substitutes: Applewood bacon, smoked bacon, ham
My favorite: applewood bacon
— Spicy substitutes: Sriacha, Tabasco
My favorite: Tabasco, I just like the vinegary taste of Tabasco

Original recipe:

– Max


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