What’s for Dinner – Smoked Gouda Mac & Cheese

I started with a Food Network recipe and played around with it a little, as usual. The comments section on the website hinted at the recipe being a bit dry, so I tried to fix that with more liquid and cheese. And then I added bacon, the king of meats. Here’s the final list of ingredients I ended up using in my version:

1 box medium shells
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
2 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup light cream
1/2 pound smoked Gouda cheese, grated (not sure how many cups it made, I just used half of the one-pound block of cheese)
1/4 cup grated monterey jack cheese (because I had extra and figured hey, more cheese can’t hurt)
6 slices bacon
Salt and pepper

Fry the bacon really crispy – it’s for making bacon bits to add to the mac & cheese.

Get your noodles boiling while you make the sauce: melt the butter in a pot until it’s frothy, and whisk in the flour. Cook that for a couple of minutes until it darkens a little, then whisk in the milk and cream. Keep whisking so nothing burns, and let it bubble for about ten minutes, until it thickens up. The recipe said to stop when the sauce was as “smooth and thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon”, so I was dunking a wooden spoon in it every couple of minutes. I’m sure I looked like a dork.

When your wooden spoon test is positive, celebrate by dumping the grated cheese into the pot and pulling it off the heat. Keep whisking! Your whisk will become unwieldy due to the glob of cheese that is sure to form inside it, but smacking it against the pot and/or poking it with your sauce-coated wooden spoon will help. Add some salt and pepper.

Add sauce to noodles, or the other way around, in a casserole dish. Then stir in the bacon. Mmmmm, bacon. I was going to add a breadcrumb topping but didn’t have any left in the pantry, so it went into the oven naked. After 20 minutes at 375F, it was bubbly and smelled great!

Alas, my tweaks didn’t quite save the recipe. It was good, but still a bit dry and not as cheesy as I’d hoped. The smoked gouda didn’t melt well at all, leaving a chunky sauce instead of the creaminess you’d expect from a mac and cheese dish. Next time I’ll try using smoked cheddar instead, because I liked the “smokiness” (and the bacon! Lord, did I love the bacon!) and I want to give it another shot. Why is it so hard to find the perfect macaroni and cheese??

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