Saturday, January 22, 2011

Spinach and Bacon Mac N Cheese

Holy Cow, I'm at my 100th post! Is it just me, or is that exciting? I figured for this occasion, I'd share a classic comfort food, jazzed up and blinged out. Ok, no bling, but this is definitely a nice spin on a classic macaroni and cheese.

Mac and Cheese night at our house is either a really good thing or a really bad thing. The past few attempts have yielded one of two results – a cheese sauce that otherwise tasted fine but curdled because I used fat free half-and-half, or a beautiful sauce and not-so-good flavors.

We have a restaurant by us that has a ‘make your own mac and cheese’ menu, where you can choose your add-ins, and it is mixed up fresh for you. My husband and I compromised between his highly carnivorous diet and my more omnivorous one and ordered mac and cheese with bacon and spinach. It was so good - creamy and velvety, with just the right hit of saltiness to cut through the richness of the cheese. I hoped that one day I could make macaroni and cheese that was this good. Unfortunately for me, the odds aren’t really in my favor when it comes to this American classic.

It wasn’t until a few nights ago that the hubby and I were trying to decide what to make for dinner, and I suggested macaroni and cheese. After what I think may have been a small nervous twitch in his eye, he actually agreed. I saw this recipe a while ago, put it in my ‘to make’ binder and forgot about it. While flipping through my recipes, the combination of the spinach and smoked gouda caught my eye. I realized that with the addition of some bacon, it would be very similar to the dish we enjoyed so much at the restaurant.

As fearful as I was about screwing up, this recipe seemed almost foolproof. This time, the roux worked beautifully, the sauce thickened up as expected and the flavors of this mac and cheese were out of this world. The spinach added a little bite to the recipe, and I used baby spinach so that the bitterness wasn’t too overwhelming, but was sturdy enough to stand up to the richness of the cheese sauce.

And how did it compare to the original version? My husband said it was a hundred times better than what we got at the restaurant.

What a sweetheart. He’s definitely a keeper!

Spinach and Bacon Mac N Cheese
Adapted slightly from
Culinary in the Desert

1/2 c bread crumbs
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups fat-free milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded smoked Gouda cheese
1/3 cup (about 1 1/2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
Three strips of thick cut bacon, chopped
5 cups coarsely chopped fresh spinach
4 cups hot cooked elbow macaroni (about 2 cups uncooked)
Tabasco Sauce

Preheat oven to 350

Dice bacon into small pieces, cook in large saucepan until crispy. Scoop bacon out of pan with slotted spoon onto paper towels and set aside.
Keep saucepan (with the rendered bacon fat) over medium heat. Add onions and garlic; cook 1 minute. Add flour; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Gradually add milk, salt, and pepper, stirring constantly with a whisk until blended. Bring to a boil; cook until thick (about 2 minutes). Add cheeses; stir until melted. Add spinach, bacon and macaroni to cheese sauce, stirring until well blended.

Spoon mixture into a 2-quart baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes or until bubbly. Garnish with Tabasco sauce, if desired.
4 servings


Emily said...

This is great, especially because I could probably convince myself the spinach canceled out the bacon and cheese. Looks delicious!

Becky said...

I am definetly goin to make this, I love the idea of making mac and cheese with different "stir ins"

Caroline said...

Emily, I threw the spinach in there just so I wouldn't feel as guilty eating the bacon, but then I realize how much I actually like the taste of it. Win win!

Becky, that's what I love about mac and cheese. If you get one basic recipe down for a good cheese sauce, the mix-ins are endless. The only limitation is your imagination!

Cathy said...

I usually prefer plain old mac and cheese, but your dressed up version sounds too good to pass up.

pup said...

Hiya!! I love bacon with my mac and cheese!! And, I love the addition of spinach! that is a great!!

Charisse said...

My question is....does the addition of spinach cancel out the bacon! hehe...I'll tell myself it does! Congrats on your 100th!

Caroline said...

Cathy, I love plain old mac and cheese as well, but this is a nice, yet simple, change of pace for when you want something a little special!

Pup, my husband and I usually put in ham chunks, but the bacon is a new favorite of ours. Pretty sure it's going to be going in most of our mac and cheese recipes from now on!

Foodies at home, Thanks, I'm excited to have made it to 100! And, I will always say that veggies cancel out the bacon. Maybe that's why I had a good two servings...

Joe said...

Hey you! Glad you glad the mac a try!

Miriam Leigh said...

Very, very, VERY exciting! Congrats. Can't think of a better way to celebrate than with Mac-n-Cheese!

Caroline said...

Joe, I've been following your blog for a while, and have made several of your recipes, including the Easter Biscotti with jelly beans (though I haven't shared that one here yet!) Your recipes are always fabulous, and I know I'll get a good dish when I use one of yours!

Miriam Leigh, thanks! I'm excited. Even though I don't have a huge reader base, I'm excited that I've had things to post and share that people are getting benefit from. Thanks so much for stopping by -I've been loving reading your trip posts, oh how I would love to be somewhere warm right now!

oneordinaryday said...

Mac and cheese is utter comfort food for me, but with spinach added it, I can easily justify going back for seconds or thirds. :)

Wanted to say thanks for the kindness sent out to my sister and her family. The support has meant a lot!

Caroline said...

I'm pretty sure I had more than my allotted share of this mac and cheese - with no guilt whatsoever! There are lots of vitamins and minerals in spinach!

I am so sorry what happened to your sister and her family, but so glad that she is ok. If there is anything I can do from where I am, let me know. You'll be able to find on my blog, if your interested, my own personal tragedy that, thanks to the support and generosity from friends, family and complete strangers, I am finally starting to get past. I just try to pay it forward the best I can.

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