How is it almost Christmas? I am shocked by how quickly December has rolled around. I am one day away from Christmas Break and I could not be more excited. This break I am working on a top secret project that I’ve been dreaming of since I started the blog almost a year ago; John and I have finalized our three-year anniversary trip destination and have an itinerary to flesh out; and finally, I am applying for a teacher grant for this summer!
It is a busy time but I feel excited, and since my husband is busy studying for the LSAT 24-7, I have a LOT of time to myself these days.
One of the meals that has been rocking my world these past few months has been a recipe from Molly Yeh’s cookbook Molly on the Range. If you’re still scrambling for a Christmas gift idea—look no further! Before I share about mac and cheese, I have to share that I love this book. It’s the only book I’ve ever pre-ordered (apart from Breaking Dawn in high school but that doesn’t count). Molly’s joyfulness exudes from the book and all of the recipes that I’ve tried have been on point.
I have made this particular mac and cheese recipe about once every other week since October, tweaking it a little each time. It has impressed everyone who has tried it, so I am very excited to be sharing it with you today!
Molly Yeh’s “Smoky Bacon Mac and Cheese” was already incredible to begin with, but with the addition of three key ingredients it has been #spiced. I’ve added chipotle pepper to the gouda-pepper jack cheese sauce and shallots and shiitake mushrooms to the dish to make this mac and cheese a full meal. Also, by serving it in individual dishes with individual crispy tops, I have increased the crispy:creamy ratio exponentially—always a good move in my book.
The smoky shiitake shallot mac and cheese recipe is pretty straight forward, but to be fully honest, it has taken me awhile to get a consistently delicious cheese sauce over the years. For this particular sauce, I have never made the original serving size for 8 ounces of pasta as suggested in Molly’s book, so I’ve always had to alter the quantity of cheese and milk. Perhaps because of this I’ve had some pretty different sauce results each time. Thankfully this article really helped me along the way.
According to the Epicurious article and my own adventures, here are the steps to a delicious cream sauce:
- Use whole milk, or even better, cream + whole milk. When it comes to mac and cheese, the fattier the better!
- Make your roux using a one flour to butter ratio (or in this case bacon fat to flour ratio).
- Use warm milk instead of cold milk to help it integrate into the sauce more smoothly.
- Shred your cheese. This might be obvious but it makes the sauce come together much more quickly.
- Add your cheese in stages (2 to 3 stages works well).
- Cook the sauce on low heat so that it doesn’t separate.
This smoky shiitake shallot mac and cheese is epic. With small pieces of bacon, caramelized shallots, juicy shiitake mushrooms, creamy gouda sauce, a crispy panko top and a subtle kick from the chipotle (I know, I use chipotle so much this could be called The Chipotle Kitchen), every bite is remarkable.
Although I’ve never been able to keep myself from devouring this smoky shiitake shallot mac and cheese before getting to this part, I daydream about adding some fried shallots on top. Please let me know if you try this dream of mine and if you do, remember to add them after you broil your mac and cheese or they will brown too much.
Smoky Shitake Shallor Mac and Cheese
Adapted from Molly on the Range “Smoky Bacon Mac and Cheese”
Yields: 6 servings
Cook & Prep time: 45 mins
1 lb of pasta (elbows, shells and rigatoni are my favorite)
12 ounces of bacon, cut into bite size pieces
2 lb of shiitake mushrooms, washed and sliced
3-4 shallots, thinly sliced
¼ cup flour
4 cups milk
1 lb gouda cheese, shredded
½ lb pepper jack, shredded
1 ¼ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon chipotle pepper
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ cup panko crumbs
Salt and pepper, to taste
- Pasta: Cook pasta according to package directions and reduce cooking time by a minute or two, drain and set aside.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Shallots and Shiitake: In a large pot cook shallots with two teaspoons of oil until caramelized. Add shiitake mushrooms to pan and cook fully. Remove from heat, drain, and set aside.
- Bacon: In a large pan cook bacon until crispy. Pour out all of the bacon fat except for ¼ cup. Heat it over medium heat and add flour whisking to combine. Allow to cook for another minute or two.
- The Sauce: Add milk whisking continually and wait until milk thickens, about 5 minutes. When milk has thickened, reduce heat and add spices. Then add cheese in batches, whisking to incorporate. Once sauce comes together remove from heat.
- Combine: In a large baking dish combine pasta, sauce, shitake mushroom and shallots. Top with panko crumbs.
- Bake Smoky Mac and Cheese at 375 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until top is browned.