Thursday, September 11, 2008

Barefoot Bloggers: Grown Up Mac and Cheese

I was very excited to join this group and attempt two of Ina Garten's recipes each month. My first Barefoot Blogger challenge comes from Heather of Randomosity and the Girl, the Grown Up Mac and Cheese which uses three kinds of "sophisticated" cheeses: Blue, Gruyere and extra sharp Cheddar.

Here are the ingredients you will need to gather:
4 slices of thick bacon
Vegetable oil or Olive Oil
2 cups elbow macaroni or cavatappi
1 1/2 cups milk (I used 2% since that is what Jim drinks)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated (note she actually says to grate these cheeses. Don't be like me and wait until the recipe calls for grated cheese, and you are in the middle of the recipe where you have to continuously stir a mixture over the stove and at the same time need to grate cheese because you didn't do your prep...Just saying!)
3 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated
2 ounces blue cheese, such as Roquefort, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch nutmeg
2 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed
2 tablespoons freshly chopped basil leaves

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place a baking rack on a sheet pan and arrange the bacon in 1 layer on the baking rack.

I've never cooked bacon this way, and I am SOLD now. I've always cooked bacon in the skillet and I hate the hot grease splashing me while it cooks. Sometimes I will wear an oven mitt on each hand when cooking bacon...and that just looks odd.

After 20 minutes the bacon is cooked perfectly! Transfer your slices to a paper towel and soak up a little of the grease, then crumble the bacon when it's cool enough to handle. I actually just wadded the paper towel up with bacon inside. That worked too.

Drizzle oil (a tablespoon or so of vegetable oil or olive oil) into a large pot of boiling salted water. This helps the pasta not stick to itself.

Add the macaroni and cook according to the directions on the package, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain well.

Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don't boil it.

Melt the butter in a medium pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk.

This was a difficult step for me. What is it supposed to look like? Mine stuck in my whisk and it didn't really do anything. Instructions say to do this for 2 minutes, but I (like I admited above) had not prepped my cheese and needed to grate the gruyere and cheddar. I turned the heat way down to the lowest setting for five minutes while I grated the cheese, and when I returned, the mixture of butter and flour was much more crumbly than before.

While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or 2 more, until
thickened and smooth. I actually let this cook for more like 5 minutes.
Turn off the stove and add your shredded gruyere, cheddar, blue cheese, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and crumbled bacon and stir well.

Unlike Ina, I poured my mac and cheese into one casserole dish.

Place the bread slices in a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until you have coarse crumbs. Add the basil and pulse to combine. The basil smells so good as its being chopped. I loved this herb addition.

Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the top of the pasta. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.

The verdict. It was a lot of trouble for Mac and Cheese and I wasn't very impressed. Maybe I'm stuck on the "blue box" more than I thought I was. Maybe I'm not a grown up and can't appreciate this sophisticated flavors. Whatever it is, I thought it was bland. Did I do everything right? Other BB's are talking about how rich and wonderful it was. Did I do something wrong?

I’d like to pause to remember this Thursday marks the seventh anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. "Today marks the seventh anniversary of the day our world was broken," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. "It lives forever in our hearts and our history, a tragedy that unites us in a common memory and a common story ... the day that began like any other and ended as none ever has."


  1. Welcome! Sorry it wasn't your favorite! And we will always remember 9/11...

  2. Your mac and cheese looks fantastic and I love all the step by step pics. Well done. Bravo.

  3. Hi Mandy-

    I'm Anne from A Good American Wife, and I'm your blog mentor!

    Your blog is terrific. Great instructions and I'm loving your recipes. Sorry the mac n cheese didn't turn out the way you hoped. If I had a chicken for every time that happened to me, I'd have a lot of drumsticks.

    I'll be posting about your site either over the weekend or next week. Feel free to email me anytime at

    xo, Anne

  4. I also thought it was a bit bland - especially the bread crumb topping. I don't think you did anything wrong.
    Love your step by step instruction photos! Great!@

  5. Hey Mandy,
    Just read your comment about it being a little bland and I totally agree! I also just noticed your comment about 9/11 . . . I included one on my post, as well. Glad to know we're all thinking about it as we're cooking and blogging.

  6. Hey there. Welcome to the group! Your mac and cheese looks great...

    Thanks for the relection time. We all needed to pause and remember yesterday.


  7. Mandy,
    Thanks for your comment- I appreciate it :)
    I think that part of the reason mine disappoint was I didnt bake it for very long. When I reheated it, it was kind of bland.

  8. Beautiful job with the mac 'n cheese Mandy. Love the breakfast casserole too:D I am enjoying am on my way...keep it up:D


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