Submitted by John Curley
About the cook: I am a home cook and competition chef focusing on new and exciting ways to incorporate my signature Bacon Jam into my recipes.
About the dish: A sweet and smokey twist on an all time favorite, mac and cheese. This signature I&K dish combines creamy mac and cheese with smoked gouda cheese along with my original sweet and spicy bacon jam. What could be better than bacon in your mac and cheese!!
National Origin: US
Estimated Time: 30 to 60 Minutes
For the Mac and Cheese:
- 1lb pasta, small shells or radiatore work best
- 4 tbs butter
- 4 tbs all-purpose flour
- 3-4 cups milk, depending on consistency preference
- 1 cup smoked gouda cheese, freshly grated
- 1 cup gruyere cheese, freshly grated
- 1 cup sharp white cheddar cheese, freshly grated
- ¼ cup panko bread crumbs
- Smoked paprika, to taste
- Freshly shaved parmesan cheese, to preference
For the Bacon Jam:
- 1lb thick cut bacon, chopped
- ½ cup red onion, finely diced
- ½ cup molasses
- ¼ cup dark brown sugar
- 1 tbs white balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbs cherry balsamic glaze
- ¼ can espresso porter beer (optional)
- Cracked black pepper, to taste
- Crushed red pepper, to taste
Boil pasta in heavily salted water until not quite al dente, strain and set aside.
Melt butter in a large sauté pan and slowly whisk in flour to create a roux. Slowly pour milk into the roux, stirring constantly and heat to just under a boil. Start blending in the cheese, alternately adding small amounts of the three. Once all cheese is added, continue stirring and ensure all cheese is melted and the sauce is consistent and smooth, for lighter sauce stir in additional milk.
Heat chopped bacon in a cast iron skillet over medium heat until evenly cooked through, soft not crispy. Add finely chopped red onion and continue heating until onions begin to turn translucent. Then combine molasses, brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, balsamic glaze and beer with the bacon and onions, stirring constantly and ensuring even distribution. Heat to a boil then reduce to simmer for 15 minutes, stirring frequently and allowing the mixture to reduce and thicken. Add red pepper and black pepper to taste.
In a small mixing bowl, combine a small amount of melted butter, bread crumbs and smoked paprika together.
In a large stock pot, combine the pasta, cheese sauce and bacon jam making sure to thoroughly mix and ensure pasta is evenly coated and bacon jam is evenly distributed. Pour the pasta blend back into the cast iron skillet or baking dish and top with bread crumb mixture.
Bake in the oven at 375F for 20 minutes then remove and top with freshly shaved parmesan cheese and serve. Makes 4 servings