BACON MAC AND CHEESE
I Love Bacon!
by Jayne Rockmill
Recipe: Chef/owner Julie Taras Wallach, Tipsy Parson and Little Giant, New York, New York
Serves 4 to 6
• 1/2 pound bacon
• 1 pound cavatelli pasta
• 1 bunch thyme (about the thickness of a quarter), plus 1½ tablespoons chopped, fresh thyme
• 4 sprigs rosemary
• 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
• 2 medium Spanish onions, coarsely chopped
• 1 clove garlic, crushed
• 1/2 to 3/4 cup white wine
• 1/4 to 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
• 4 cups milk
• 3 cups heavy whipping cream
• 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
• 1 cup grated Grafton cheddar cheese (4 ounces; or other white cheddar)
• 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1/2 cup coarse breadcrumbs (cornbread is ideal)
• 1 cup grated Grana Padano Cheese (4 ounces)
In a large skillet over medium-low heat, cook the bacon until crispy, about 10 minutes. Drain on paper towels. When cool, cut into 1/4-inch pieces.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and set aside.
Tie the bunch of thyme and sprigs of rosemary -- together with clean kitchen string. In a large widemouth stockpot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, and herbs and cook until the onion is soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Remove and discard the garlic and herbs. Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the milk and cream, then the mustard. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook, stirring constantly, for about 30 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheddar, a handful at a time, waiting until each addition is completely melted before adding more. Season with the nutmeg and add salt and black pepper to taste.
Add the pasta and the chopped thyme and bacon and heat through until the pasta is well coated and seasoned, about 5 minutes. Adjust the seasonings as needed.
Pour the mixture into a casserole dish or individual ovenproof gratin dishes. Sprinkle the top(s) with a generous layer of breadcrumbs, then a layer of Grana Padano, then another layer of breadcrumbs. Bake for 20 minutes, or until bubbly and crispy.