Today is Eilene’s 18th birthday. Her mother is in Chicago. Her sister is in Peru. She had school and work all day. She will have her real party later next week. To celebrate the day, she is having some friends over and she requested mac & cheese.
I made this last time when the French girl left and everyone really liked it. When I went to look for the recipe I had difficulty finding it. I had used some curry powder and I had given it a fancy Indian name. This time I am going to make it more American and simply call it Mac & Cheese to make it easier to find.
Karl’s Mac and Cheese with Bacon & Cauliflower
1 cauliflower, small
6 cloves garlic crushed
1 tsp. thyme
1 bay leaf
½ tsp. black pepper, fresh ground
½ tsp. Kosher salt
¾ lb. macaroni (about 2½ cups dry)
1 lb. thin sliced smoky bacon
Karl’s au Gratin Sauce
3 Tbs. reserves bacon grease (or butter)
3 Tbs. flour
5 cloves garlic, mashed
1¾ cup milk
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
½ lb. Gruyére, grated, separate uses
Pinch nutmeg, fresh grated, separate uses
Pinch black pepper
Pinch Kosher salt
1. Remove the leaves and toughest part of the stem from the cauliflower, break it into large florets.
2. Put the cauliflower in a large pot and add the garlic, thyme, bay leaf, pepper, and water to cover.
3. Bring the pot to a boil and then reduce the temperature to medium low. Simmer until the cauliflower is ¾ done (about 15 minutes).
4. Transfer the cauliflower to a plate to cool slightly. Reserve and strain the cooking liquid.
5. Return the liquid to the pot and add the macaroni. Simmer until al dente (about 8 minutes).
Note: This time I only had a half pound of macaroni so I added a quarter pound of rotini.
Tip: It is OK if they are slightly less than al dente, because they will be cooked a second time.
6. Fry the bacon crisp in a skillet and set aside to cool. Reserve 3 tablespoons of bacon grease.
7. In a small pot, add the reserved bacon grease and flour and cook stirring constantly until lightly browned.
Tip: Cooking grease and flour is called a roux. Although this is usually done with butter you can use any form of fat.
8. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds more.
9. Add the milk, a bit at a time, and continue stirring until the sauce has started to thicken.
10. Stir in the mustard.
11. Reserve ½ cup of the cheese and add the rest, a bit at a time, stirring constantly.
12. When the cheese is almost completely melted, add the nutmeg, pepper, and salt. Continue stirring to mix.
13. Chop the cauliflower into small florets and mix it with the macaroni in a large bowl.
14. Crumble the bacon and add most of it to the pasta mixture. Reserve half a cup as garnish.
15. Pour ¾ of the cheese sauce over all and stir to mix.
16. Pour the mixture into a large Pam-ed baking dish.
17. Spread the last of the cheese sauce over all and put the baking dish into a 500º F for about 10 minutes.
18. Remove the baking dish from the oven and sprinkle the reserved cheese and bacon on top.
19. Return it to the oven and switch the oven from bake to broil. Broil until the cheese is starting to brown well (about another 10 minutes).
20. Garnish with a few gratings of fresh nutmeg and serve.