Chef Anne Burrell is a rock star. That is obvious in her cookbook Cook Like a Rock Star, published by Random House of Canada. Not just because she is so flippin' awesome but because you can hear her voice in every recipe. Not just in the intro but throughout the directions too. I was so excited to cook with her I could not wait to make one of her fabulous dishes and start my journey into the foodie hall of fame.
I was going to attempt her Spinach & Ricotta Gnocchi with Fontina Fonduta first but there was a lot of prep that I noticed thanks to the "Anne Alert!" box which I really appreciated. I decided instead to make her "killler" mac and cheese:
"Great mac and cheese should be creamy and tangy and luscious... And it's got bacon! What could be better?" ~ Chef Anne Burrell
I divided the recipe in half but will write it in full for you. You will need 1 lb of shells or other short pasta. I used a combo of pastas because I really need to go grocery shopping.
Slice 6 pieces of bacon crosswise into 1/2" strips. Drizzle some olive oil into a large saucepan and add the bacon. Bring pan to medium heat, stirring occasionally. When it is brown and crispy, drain on paper towel. Do not discard bacon fat.
I used turkey bacon which has much less fat that regular bacon. If you prefer turkey bacon then let the oil heat up first and then add the strips. Mine stuck to the pan quite a bit! You may have to also add extra oil to make the sauce.
When you make a cream sauce, you absolutely have to do the "mis en place" prep and have it close by.
Add 3 tbsp of unsalted butter and 1 onion cut into 1/4" dice to the pan and season with salt. Cook until soft and aromatic, around 8 to 10 minutes. Add 1/2 cup flour, stirring frequently for 4 to 5 minutes until mixture looks like wet sand.
I used shallots instead of onions which is why mine caramelized a lot. Thankfully it did not burn but it got close! So if you use shallots, cook for less time.
Slowly whisk in 1 quart of whole milk, season with salt and bring to a boil.
It was around this point I added my pasta to salted boiling water. Anne says to cook 1 minute less than packaging instructs but I usually cook it the minimum the package says to. I do not like my pasta to have too much bite.
Bring milk mixture to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook over low heat for 8 to 10 minutes until the mixture is slightly thicker than heavy cream.
Add 2 cups of grated cheddar, 2 cups of freshly grated Fontina and 1 cup of freshly grated Parmigiano. Whisk to combine. Add 1/4 cup Dijon mustard.
Add a few shakes of Tabasco and check seasoning. If sauce is too thick, add more milk. Pour over cooked and well-drained pasta.
I used a President's Choice chipotle hot sauce (that no longer appears to be on their site) which is delicious but the top fell off and I drizzled in a ton, as well as getting it all over my stovetop.
Stir in the cooked bacon and it is ready!
Killer mac & cheese? You bet it is! Holy macaroni. Or should I call it devilish?!
It was the best mac and cheese Reg and I have ever had. Honestly. And I have made a lot! I found it interesting that she did not put it in a casserole dish, top with breadcrumbs... As a result, this is the sauciest, richest mac and cheese you can imagine.
I served it for dinner in small bowls and Reg loved it so much at the first bite he mourned how little he had (see back bowl). I said, finish it and then see how you feel. Sure enough, by the last bite he was done. Craaaaaaaaaaaaaazy rich. A cheese lover's dream come true.
I was relieved because I needed some leftovers to photograph the next day but we all know how pretty leftover mac and cheese is, LOL.
I put my little cooking vessel in the oven around 325F and had a shower. By the time I was done, the pasta was heated though but looking dry. I poured in some milk, sprinkled on some fresh cheese and put it under the broiler...
Wowee! What a difference and damn, it almost tasted as good as it did the night before. I do have to put up a warning though that this really is a cholesterol bomb but with the weekend coming, I figure this would be a treat of a dinner and so much better than takeout. It is totally worth the effort.
Anne's directions were easy to follow, clearly broken down and yet her personality shone through so I felt like she was really there guiding me in my kitchen. That is a first for me. It is also exactly what I have been looking for in a cookbook.
I have zero complaints. The dish was definitely rock star worthy. This is a great start Chef Anne Burrell! I can not wait to make another winner recipe. I give this recipe five out of five wooden spoons.