Thursday, May 25, 2017

Smoked Four Cheese Macaroni and Cheese

Who doesn't like good down home comfort food? If you know us or have followed this blog at all, you know that we definitely like to eat. We especially like good barbecue and sides to go with it. A few weeks back, we tried our hand at a smoked macaroni and cheese. You could also prepare this macaroni and cheese in the oven, but we were rather intrigued at the idea of using the smoker.
Macaroni and cheese is regarded as a dish of English origin. The cheese sauce most frequently features cheddar cheese. Recipes for pasta and cheese casseroles actually appeared in both English and Italian cookbooks dating back to the 14th century. In the United States, Thomas Jefferson is reported to have served a macaroni and cheese-type dish at a state dinner in 1802. A recipe titled, "macaroni and cheese," appeared in The Virginia Housewife, a cookbook published in 1824. 
The recipe that I am sharing features four types of cheese: cream cheese, cheddar cheese, Gouda cheese, and parmesan cheese. Each brings a distinct flavor to the macaroni and cheese. Although you can use any type of pasta that tends to hold its shape well such as shells, bowties, or penne, elbow macaroni is often the pasta of choice. I like using the Barilla brand elbow macaroni. The elbows tend to be a bit larger, and they are ribbed, which adds a little interest while keeping the classic look to the dish.

Here are the ingredients and instructions:
1 16 ounce package of pasta
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
3 1/2 cups milk
8 ounce brick of cream cheese (Don't use the low fat stuff as the consistency won't turn out right; we're talking comfort food here - go for the real stuff. Moderation in all things.)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 cups shredded Gouda cheese
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
Crushed Cheez-It crackers

1. Cook the pasta according to directions. Drain and set aside.
2. In a large Dutch oven, melt the butter and whisk the flour into the butter to form a light roux. Cook over medium heat for two minutes until the sauce is thick and bubbly.
3. Whisk in the milk and bring to a low boil. Cook five minutes until the mixture is thickened.
4. Cut the cream cheese into chunks and stir into the milk mixture until it is melted. Stir in the salt and pepper. Remove from heat.
5. Stir in 1 cup cheddar cheese, 1 cup Gouda cheese, and the parmesan cheese until they are melted. Stir in the pasta until it is well coated.
Here is a picture of the sauce before we stirred in the pasta
6. Spray a 11 x 9.5 inch roasting pan with non-stick cooking spray. Spoon the pasta mixture into the pan.
7. Combine the remaining cheddar and Gouda cheeses with the crushed Cheez-It crackers. Sprinkle over the top of the pasta.
8. Load the wood tray of the smoker with one small handful of wood chips. We recommend using a fruit wood such as apple or cherry. Preheat the smoker to 225 degrees.
9. Place the pasta in the smoker and cook for 1 hour until bubbly and heated through. If you don't have a smoker, bake in the oven at 350 degrees until bubbly and heated through, about 40-60 minutes.
Here it is on the shelf in the smoker
 Here you can see the crispy cracker topping.
We had our macaroni and cheese with some smoked pulled pork and vegetables. I'm thinking we will be trying this recipe again.