What are you going to cook this St. Patrick's Day?
Well.. after checking out this recipe, I’m pretty sure it will be my Irish Guinness Mac & Cheese. What?? Mac-n-Cheese for St. Pat’s Day? Yep….The only thing that could make mac & cheese any better is the addition of alcohol, bacon and potato chips …don’t judge…haha…it’s so good!
This dish is festive because it adds the malted rich flavor of the Guinness Stout to the mac -n- cheese. The Stout combined with the creamy and sharp cheeses makes for an incredible, can’t get enough mac & cheese dish. I like it because it's fun and festive, but not over the top cabbage and corned beef festive. And since I believe I am Italian, the addition of pasta (Cervasi of course) is always a good thing.
This recipe is also perfect for entertaining. You can make it early in the day, pop it in the fridge, and reheat it when your friends arrive. They will be talking about this one for a loooong time.
Oh, on a side note, I'm excited announce that I’m testing out a new recipe format. It's called my "cooking class recipes". I am answering all the questions my students usually ask me during my cooking classes. I'm adding all the questions and answers to the end of each recipe. Think…”how much salt do I add to the pasta water” kind of thing. So basically, you're getting a little cooking class (if you want it) as well as an amazing recipe. I'd love to hear what you think. For all the new cooks out there, is it helpful or not? Do you have any additional questions you would love to have answered on my blog? I love to hear from you all….it really brightens my day!
Irish Guinness Mac and Cheese
1 pound elbow macaroni (Cervasi recommended)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2/3 cup Guinness or other stout beer
1 1/2 cups milk (at least 2%)
1/2 cup half and half
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 teaspoon ground black pepper (or more)
1/4 teaspoon red pepper (or more)
2 teaspoons dry mustard
3 ounces softened cream cheese cut into pieces
4 ounces grated cheddar (or another good melting cheese) save a small amount to sprinkle on the top if desired)
4 ounces grated gruyere
Optional Toppings (when I say optional, I kind of mean mandatory ;)
4 slices applewood smoked bacon, cooked and crumbled
1-2 cups lightly crumbled potato chipsBoil elbow macaroni in well salted water and cook until a little before al dente. The pasta will still have a chewy bite.
Boil elbow macaroni in well salted water and cook until a little before al dente. The pasta will still have a chewy bite.
Before draining the pasta, reserve a cup of pasta water and set aside.
While pasta is cooking, prepare the cheese sauce: In large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and sprinkle in flour. Whisk together for a minute. While whisking, pour in Guinness, milk, half and half, salt, pepper, red pepper and dry mustard. Bring to a simmer and cook, whisking frequently until it thickens slightly.
Add cream cheese, grated cheddar and grated gruyere and stir/whisk until completely smooth. Add drained, cooked pasta and stir to combine. Let this mixture sit over low heat for a few minutes, stirring frequently, so that the pasta can soak up some of the cheese. Add some of the saved pasta water to create the desired consistency.
To serve: Sprinkle with bacon and/or potato chips. Serve immediately or see below for how to make in advance.
COOKING CLASS TIPS:
Here are some great tips and tricks that you can use with this Guinness Mac and Cheese recipe. These tips and tricks also work with many of my other recipes.
How much salt should you add to your pasta water? I like to add about 2 tablespoons of Kosher salt per pound of pasta that is cooked in a large pot. Click here to read more about kosher salt and salting pasta water. It’s kinda a Big Deal!!
Using pasta water in your dishes will make your pasta a step above those who don’t. That cloudy liquid is filled with leftover starch from the pasta. This starchy water, when added to any hot fat or sauce results in a luxuriously smooth sauce. This is called emulsification.
Saving pasta water can also fix a ton of pasta cooking issues. In the case of this recipe, if the macaroni and cheese thickens up too much for your taste, add some of the reserved pasta water to make it more creamy.
When you are mixing the flour and the butter in the third step you are actually making what’s called a roux. A roux is a thickening agent for many dishes. It is often times the first step to a great sauce. For the Guinness Mac and Cheese, the flour, butter and liquid mixture needs to thicken to its’ full capacity. For this to happen, the butter and flour mixture need to reach a simmer. Remember to always wait for your roux to reach a simmer before adding any more liquid or flour.
This recipe can also be classified as one of my Easy Entertaining recipes. You can make this early in the day and let cool, then place covered in the refrigerator. A half hour before your guests arrive, remove the mac and cheese from the refrigerator and let the dish come to room temperature. It is very important that the mac and cheese is room temperature prior to heating in the oven. This will prevent the dish from becoming dry.