My husband and I had an honest-to-God fight about macaroni and cheese recently. Well, it was more like a heated debate but it was proof to me that we’ve been married for so long, we’ve officially run out of things to fight about.
See, I made this incredible Barefoot Contessa Grown-Up Mac and Cheese for our anniversary recently and loved it so much I ASSUMED we’d make it for Thanksgiving. My husband nixed the idea though, saying it wasn’t “traditional” enough. I said that tradition doesn’t matter when something is this delicious. He disagreed and then I might have accused him of no longer loving me. My point is that the discussion degenerated into something completely different but it doesn’t matter because I’m not making macaroni and cheese for Thanksgiving.
I griped about this to my hairdresser Kyle, who stared at me in shock and said, “We make that EVERY YEAR for Thanksgiving! Everyone asks for it! It’s the first thing we run out of. Not TRADITIONAL enough, my sweet, fantastically toned ass!”
I might have added that last line myself.
Kyle would know because he’s not only the best hairdresser in Dallas. He also writes for and helps to run a website called “Queer in the Kitchen,” which has great recipes but is also funny as hell. I read it even when I’m NOT looking for menu ideas and love how a HUGE portion of their recipes are either “drunk” or “drunken.” Kyle was the one who encouraged me to TRY the Barefoot Contessa mac and cheese recipe in the first place. You can find Ina Garten’s recipe HERE, but this is my bastardized version:
You will need:
6 slices of thick-cut bacon
1 box of elbow macaroni or cavatappi
3 cups milk
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 C Gruyere cheese, grated
1 C extra-sharp Cheddar, grated
1/2 C blue cheese, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Bake your bacon in a 400 degree oven while you boil your noodles. I’ve completely abandoned frying bacon because I’m allergic to pouring bacon fat into anything. I dumped hot bacon fat into a red Solo cup once when I was hungover. It melted through and spilled all over the counter, which cured me of that nonsense once and for all. Instead, I line a baking sheet with tin-foil and BAKE the bacon for about 25 minutes, turning once along the way. Then you can just fold up the tin-foil and throw it away once the fat hardens a bit.
Once your bacon is finished, turn the oven down to 350 degrees. Melt your butter and then whisk in your flour. Ina’s recipe says to add warm milk, but she made such a big deal about NOT BOILING IT that I panicked and just put the milk in cold. I didn’t notice a difference. Once that has slightly thickened, add your cheese. Ina’s recipe gave the cheese amounts in ounces, which is kind of ridiculous. Did she think I’d have a scale laying around from my drug dealing days? (*I’ve never actually dealt drugs.) Luckily, I found a really bored dude behind the cheese counter at the store and he measured it out for me the first time I made this. The second time, I went with the amounts listed above and it tasted just as good. Also, use blue cheese, even if you hate blue cheese because it makes a HUGE difference. My kids are like tiny vampires when it comes to blue cheese, hissing and backing away dramatically, but they’ll eat the hell out of this stuff. Also, don’t skip the Gruyere. I made this with regular grated Swiss for our church pot-luck and didn’t get a single compliment…dammit.
Once your cheese is melted, mix in your noodles and crumbled bacon, add pepper and a pinch of nutmeg (if you don’t hate nutmeg) then pour it all into a casserole dish. You might notice that I’ve doubled the cheese-sauce for this recipe. I did this because any noodle that isn’t submerged in sauce will harden. See the picture above and how the noodles on top look hard and gross? They were. Keep it saucy (I need a t-shirt that says that). Ina’s recipe also calls for homemade breadcrumbs. I didn’t do that. In fact, reading her suggestion of buying fresh bread, leaving it out to dry, then pulsing it in a food processor filled me with inexplicable rage. I just use the crap in a can, added some grated parmasean and it was delicious. I also drizzled about 2 tablespoons of melted butter on top before baking, to keep partially exposed noodles from hardening into macaroni daggers.
Finally, Ina’s recipe says to bake it for 35-40 minutes. Don’t do that. It’s stupid. If you want proof, just read the reviews of her recipe from all the people who baked delicious little bricks. No, only bake it for 15-20 minutes, pull it out when the breadcrumbs are brown and ENJOY! And save your leftovers for me since we won’t be having it HERE. Hell…we all know there won’t be any leftovers.