Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Smoky Mac N Cheese with Beer

Hold on to your stomachs! This indulgent, naughty pasta dish is not exactly the epitome of health-conscious comfort food, but it is bloody lovely, and its got lots of lovely beer in it!

This is a beer-lovers' spin on the classic Mac N Cheese, but as I didn't have any Macaroni, I used Fusilli instead. I know, inexcusable isn't it... Go on, shoot me, I deserve it.

This dish is best served to your girlfriend/boyfriend, family and all of your friends, so you can all get fat together and nobody will notice its all because of you, you feeder... It's also a great excuse to get everyone together, cook a pretty simple dish and enjoy a night of alcoholic bevies and banter.

For a nice smoky flavour, I used Innis & Gunn's Oak-aged Beer (you can buy them from our mates over at Best of British Beer)- lots of oakiness, toffee and vanilla, with a heady sweetness and pronounced hop character.

So, here's how to boss-level your Mac N Cheese. Boom!

To serve 4, you're going to need:

A fuck-ton of cheese. I'm not kidding, you're going to need 570g of the brilliant stuff in there. Use half Smoked Cheddar (or Gouda, Smoked Gouda is unreal), and half Mature Cheddar, both grated
750ml Milk - you might as well go Full Fat, you cheese and beer loving beast!
500ml Innis & Gunn Oak-aged Beer. A hoppy as hell IPA would also work wonders
2 Teaspoons Mustard Powder
1 Teaspoon Smoked Paprika
1kg Pasta - Use whatever you have in the cupboard, but something that will catch the sauce
1/2 Teaspoon Chilli Powder - a little spice will accentuate the beer and cheese awesomeness
Cracked Black Pepper to taste - coz a meal ain't a meal without it
1 Teaspoon Salt
150g Unsalted Butter - no, you can't use margarine you filthy human
4 Tablespoons Plain Butter
75g Panko Breadcrumbs - they're basically just big breadcrumbs
8 Rashers Cooked (crispy) Streaky Bacon, cut into lardons

1. Make a roux by melting 125g of the Butter in a saucepan, then add and whisk in the Flour to form a paste.

2. Add the Milk and Beer, and bring to a simmer.

3. Cook off your Pasta to just before 'al-dente' and drain.

4. Whisk in the Mustard Powder, Paprika and Chilli Powder and cook out the Flour for about 5 minutes, whisking frequently.

5. Whisk in the Cheese, a fifth at a time, holding back the final fifth to sprinkle on the Pasta before it goes in the oven later on.

6. Retire the whisk, it has served you well.

7. Add the Pasta and Bacon to the sauce and stir well. Simmer for about 4 minutes, or until the Pasta has finished cooking.

8. Season with Salt and Pepper to taste.

9. Transfer to an ovenproof dish, sprinkle with the remaining Cheese.

10. Melt 25g Butter and toss the Panko Breadcrumbs in it. Sprinkle over the cheesy Pasta.

11. Cook at 180 degrees Celsius for about 10-15 minutes, or until Breadcrumbs are golden and crispy.

12. Serve family style with a big spoon & Garlic Bread.

I thought the bold flavour and aromas of the beer punched their way through the smoky richness of the cheese and lifted the whole dish. It brought a complexity to an otherwise fairly boring cheese sauce dish that I haven't experienced before; with notes of creamy toffee, vanilla and oak that really set the whole dish off; and perfectly complimented the smoked cheese.

I wouldn't go as far to say enjoy a cold Innis & Gunn with this meal, as I think the beer in the sauce brings enough flavour to the table. I think it'd be great with an unoaked Chardonnay, like this one from Majestic, or even a few bottles of Torrontes, just to offer some juxtaposition. If you aren't familiar with Torrontes, check out my blog on it here.

This shouldn't be a weekly meal, nor should any Mac N Cheese dish, but if you do go and cook my recipe (and you should!), then make sure you indulge in a couple of salads and soups to keep things balanced ;-)

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