Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Macaroni & Cheese with Bacon & Mushrooms

It's still winter. Cold. Dreary. Not very sunny. Snowy. Still time for warm comfort foods, like macaroni and cheese. That's what we made for dinner last Sunday. But this wasn't ordinary macaroni and cheese. This was Macaroni & Cheese with Mushrooms & Bacon from the December 2003 Bon Appetit.
As usual, I was in charge of chopping & measuring out seasonings. I don't mind, I enjoy sitting at the table in front of the window, sipping wine, gazing out at the sky & trees, chopping vegetables and measuring ingredients. SP fried the bacon and grated the cheese. Grating cheese is definitely not a task I enjoy, not even if I use the food processor because then I have to wash all the parts of the food processor and for some reason I get annoyed when I have to clean the food processor after one small task! He used the last of the white cheddar from Costco and then grated the newly purchased, orange colored sharp cheddar.

The first actual cooking step was to saute the onions and mushrooms in butter:Sauteed onions always make a house smell yummy. The next step is to add the milk and the seasonings/thickener (flour, dried mustard, pepper). We omitted the salt. Then the cheese.Finally, mix in the cooked elbows and pour into a 13x9 baking pan.Top with the remaining bacon crumbles and breadcrumbs -- yes, we cheated, using the last of the Panko crumbs in the pantry and not homemade bread crumbs made from crustless French bread. Bake until browned on top:And enjoy!To be honest, we both were a little underwhelmed by this macaroni and cheese. The addition of mushrooms & bacon and cheddar instead of American cheese made us expect a huge 'wow' factor when we ate it. It was good, but not great, and we're not sure we'd make it again. Of course, we were tired after cooking (we baked cookies earlier in the day) and we both think that sometimes after a lot of cooking, our appetite isn't so great. And it could be that this is a dish that needs time for the flavors to really mesh together.

But it wasn't very cheesy-creamy-saucy. It was kind of dry. And even though bacon is pretty salty and flavorful, I wonder if we made a mistake in not adding the 1/2 tsp salt. Next time, I'd add more pepper and maybe even add more dried mustard -- I didn't detect any mustard flavor. I'd also make another half batch of sauce but keep the pasta amount the same (or halve the pasta amount and keep the sauce amount the same). Maybe add some grated parmesan on top with the breadcrumbs. And maybe saute the breadcrumbs in butter (we didn't, we just sprinkled them on top).

Macaroni and Cheese with Mushrooms & Bacon

1 pound small elbow macaroni (about 4 cups)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
3/4 pound mushrooms, chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3 cups (packed) grated sharp cheddar cheese (about 12 ounces)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
8 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs made from crustless French bread

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large pot over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and onion; sauté until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in flour, mustard, salt, and pepper; cook 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk. Cook until sauce is smooth and slightly thickened, whisking constantly, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Add cheese and parsley; stir until cheese melts. Mix in pasta.

Sauté bacon in medium skillet over medium-high heat until crisp. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Mix half of bacon into pasta and transfer to prepared dish. Sprinkle with remaining bacon.

Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in small saucepan over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs; sauté until beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over pasta. Bake until pasta is heated through and golden brown, about 20 minutes.

December 2003 Bon Appetit


  1. Ah, Panko. Delicious and super fun to say. Panko Panko Panko!

  2. I have been craving mac & cheese lately. I love onions in mac & cheese!

  3. looks awesome! not sure if you are hip to it or not, but kelly's bar in east lib has AWESOME mac'n cheeze on the menu.