I’ve been stopping in at the excellent cheese store Pastoral on my way home from work once every few weeks. On a recent trip I picked up some of Milton Creamery’s Prairie Breeze cheddar (better description from Pastoral), which the cheese guy told me to try making a mac and cheese out of. I was planning on doing that this weekend anyway, but yesterday we went down to Fox Valley Winery and found some Bacon and Ranch Cheddar in their fridge (evidently the owner’s favorite). With the power of these two cheddars combined, we pretty much had to.
The whole reason we were down at the winery was that Abby’s dad had a Groupon for a tour of the place. When I mentioned my mac and cheese dreams to him, he mentioned he had always had great luck with a recipe from Diners, Drive-ins and Dives: An All-American Road Trip . . . with Recipes!, which I luckily received for Christmas last year! We decided to go with a slightly modified Smoque BBQ Mac and Cheese recipe, using the Prairie Breeze for the sauce and the Bacon and Ranch Cheddar as a topper.
Smoque BBQ Mac and Cheese (8 servings)
1 lb elbow macaroni
2 1/2 cups evaporated milk
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon onion salt
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
10 oz (1 1/4 cups shredded cheddar cheese)
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
The original recipe calls for double the amount of celery salt but we found it a bit too strong. I think somewhere between 1/2 and 3/4 tsp is probably a better option. It also calls for 1/4 tsp Hot Sauce but we wanted to really get the cheese flavors so we just added hot sauce to the finished product. We also didn’t butter the bread crumbs.
To make this, bring a pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook, stirring on and off, until it’s al dente. Drain it.
Preheat your broiler. In a large bowl, mix together the evaporated milk, eggs, dry mustard, hot sauce (if you want to add it at this point), onion salt, and celery salt. Fold in the pasta and about three quarters of the cheese. Add it back into the pot noodles and cook over medium heat until the cheese melts and the sauce thickens up a bit.
Pour the mac and cheese into a 9×13 greased pan. If you want to butter your bread crumbs, melt 1/2 stick butter in a skillet and add the bread crumbs. Sprinkle the Parmesan, bread crumbs, and the rest of the cheddar over the top of the pasta in the pan. Place under the broiler and cook until the top turns golden brown, about 3 minutes.
We were shocked at how easy this was to make. As I mentioned, the mac and cheese had a little too much of a celery taste for our liking. Even that didn’t prevent it from being amazing. The cheeses we used were perfect for this, and with a little bit of hot sauce mixed in this was an excellent meal. This mac and cheese comes out pretty thick, so if you like a creamy mac and cheese this one might not be for you. That being said, I’m a creamy mac fan and I still loved this version.
We ate the mac and cheese with some hot sauce we picked up in Charleston, SC at the City Market (substituting my mac and cheese standby sriracha for our second helping). Our beer of the night was Two Brothers’s Hop Juice, a double IPA with a limited yearly release. It was awesome.