“Pimped Out” Macaroni and Cheese

The weather has been wonky in Vancouver. I’m home sick today and I think the weather changed about five times. Mother Nature can’t seem to make up her mind last week or so. Rain? Snow? Sun? Hail? Maybe one in each corner of the Lower Mainland. The one consistency is that it has been chilly no matter the elements. Certainly not anywhere close to being Spring… And in the mean time, it was 26 degrees in Winnipeg last weekend. In MARCH.

During the Winter and/or chillier weather, Sean and I tend to eat heartier foods than we would in the summer. My absolute favourite hearty food is macaroni and cheese. My mom makes an awesome roux (no Kraft dinner in our house) and her mac and cheese was always wolfed down by whoever happened to be at the table. We always had it with some veggies on the side and it was always, always my favourite meal. (And of course, I have a cold and my favourite meal – the one thing I would really like to eat tonight for dinner – would not be good for my throat and make sleeping super uncomfortable.)

When I moved out on my own, I started adding veggies IN the pasta. Sautéed broccoli is my favourite. When Sean came along, mushrooms were added, which of course meant garlic was added. And Worcestershire sauce. And sometimes beer. My hubby makes kick ass sautéed musrooms.

When we went to Edinburgh, we cooked and baked about half the meals while we stayed at Stephen and Lesley’s place. They were so excited and baffled – we were on holiday, why did we want to slave in the kitchen? Answer: We enjoy it. (Sean does most of the cooking in our house – he is much better at it than I am; more spontaneous with ingredients and such. On the other hand, 90% of the time, I need a recipe. Which is why I love to bake. I will tweak recipes every now and then but for the most part, opening the cupboard and going “Hmmm…” scares me a bit.)

And so, the first week we were in Edinburgh, we made macaroni and cheese. We had done a grocery shop (including some beautiful pancetta from one of the Valvona Crolla shops) and were ready to go. And so the Scots were introduced to what Stephen dubbed “pimped out” macaroni and cheese.

PIMPED OUT MACARONI & CHEESE

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Print

INGREDIENTS

  • 450g pasta of choice (I like brown rice or Kamut fusili or penne)
  • Water
  • Kosher salt
For the “Stir Fry”
  • 2 mid size broccoli crowns
  • 2-4 garlic cloves
  • 6-8 large mushrooms
  • Approximately 1/3 bottle of Guinness (or whatever beer you want – the darker, the better) – you will not necessarily use it all. Drink the rest. Don’t be wasteful. 😉
  • Approximately 100g fresh pancetta (If you have leftover salmon, lightly heat it up on a low temperature in the oven, rip into pieces, and use in place of pancetta.)
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • Butter
For the Roux
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 2 cups marble cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup Asiago cheese
  • Approx. 1 cup milk
  • Approx. 1/4 cup flour
  • Black pepper
  • White pepper
  • Dried thyme
PREP:
  • Grate cheese
  • Mince garlic
  • Slice mushrooms
  • Cut/rip broccoli into small florets
  • Cut pancetta into small bits
  • Fill stock pot with water

METHOD:

*Note: Instructions are for one person making this meal. Sean and I normally tag-team this meal, so everything can be done at the same time. Do what works for you.)

Pasta

  • Bring water to a boil
  • Add a dash of salt
  • Add pasta to water, leave pot uncovered
  • When “al dente” drain pasta in a colander and set aside with lid on
“Stir-Fry”
  • Heat a small frying pan on medium-high heat; add a small dash of butter (or if you want to be healthy, the equivalent of olive oil)
  • Add cut pancetta and fry to a not too crispy state (aim for flexible pancetta); remove from heat and set aside
  • Heat a large frying pan on medium-high heat
  • Melt a large dollop of butter (or if you want to be healthy, the equivalent of olive oil)
  • When butter is melted and kind of bubbling, add garlic
  • After 10 seconds, add the mushrooms; let simmer for 30 seconds
  • Add Guinness and Worcestershire
  • Stir/shake mushrooms around every 30 seconds so that they are evenly coated
  • Continue to shake/stir as liquid reduces and the mushrooms brown
  • Add broccoli; stir until liquid is fully reduced/absorbed
  • Remove from heat and cover pan to lightly steam the broccoli for two minutes
  • Stir in pancetta
  • Add mixture to pasta, stir and set aside

Roux

  • Melt butter over medium-high heat in a mid-size pot
  • Stir in flour (a bit at a time) and stir until mixture is foamy
  • Add some milk and whisk until mixture is smooth
  • Add pepper and thyme to taste
  • Add some cheese, whisk; add milk as necessary
  • Repeat until all the cheese is added/melted (only add a bit of milk if the mixture is too thick)
  • Gently whisk until smooth and poor into pasta pot

Mix it all up and enjoy!

(I like to add ketchup to my mac and cheese – I’m a Heinz girl. I don’t add as much as when I was a kid. (I always felt bad putting ketchup on my mom’s macaroni – it was really good without the red stuff, but I just had to have Heinz on everything back then.) Mac and cheese is one of the few things left that I put ketchup on at all. Apparently my palette has evolved.)

Making Mac & Cheese in Edinburgh


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