Fancy Mac and Cheese

Our New Year’s celebration was decidedly low-key.  Big Boy went down at his regular bedtime, and as usual, I knew I wasn’t too far behind.  But the night called for something special, so I got out one of my Christmas gifts from Husband, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from My Frontier.  We celebrated with bubbly… both champagne and cheese varieties!  Mmm, bubbly cheese.

I made a half-recipe and it was still an enormous amount of food.  It was difficult to figure out 3/4 of a box of macaroni, and I think I used too much, making the final product not as saucy as I would have liked.  Warming up leftovers with a splash of milk was great, though.  The caramelized onions and roasted mushrooms really make this dish sing!  This would be best suited as a side dish for a large gathering.

Substitutions: Since Husband was doing the grocery shopping, I limited the hard-to-find-cheese search and used more gruyere in place of the fontina.  And since I detest blue cheese, I used mozzarella in place of the gorgonzola.  Big Boy drinks 2% milk, so I used that instead of whole milk.

And as for whether I made it to midnight?  Negative.  Fell asleep on the couch around 9:00pm, woke up at 11:00pm, had a piece of cake, and went to bed.  Happy New Year, party animals!

Here’s the recipe straight from the PW herself:

Fancy Mac and Cheese

16 ounces White Button Or Cremini Mushrooms, Quartered

Olive Oil, For Drizzling
Kosher Salt And Black Pepper To Taste
8 slices Thick Cut Bacon
2 whole Yellow Onions, Peeled, Halved, And Thinly Sliced
5 Tablespoons Butter, Plus More For Buttering The Pan
1/2 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
1/2 cup Grated Gruyere Cheese
1/2 cup Grated Fontina Cheese
4 ounces Goat Cheese (chevre)
1-1/2 pound Macaroni
1/4 cup All-purpose Flour
2 cups Whole Milk
1/2 cup Half-and-half
2 whole Eggs, Beaten
4 ounces, weight Crumbled Gorgonzola Or Other Blue Cheese

Preparation Instructions 
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Drizzle the mushrooms with olive oil, then sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Roast them in the oven until deep golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Set aside. Next, fry the bacon until chewy but not yet crisp. Chop the bacon into bite-size bits and set aside.In a large skillet over medium-low heat, saute the onions in 1 tablespoon butter, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Set aside.Grate the Parmesan, Gruyere, and fontina cheeses. Unwrap the goat cheese. Cook the macaroni until just undercooked. Drain and set aside. 

To make the sauce, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter in a large pot over medium heat. Sprinkle in the flour, whisking to combine. Let the roux cook for a minute or so, whisking constantly. Pour in the milk, whisking constantly, then cook the white sauce for 3 to 5 minutes, or until thick and bubbly. Next, add the half and half, 1 teaspoon of salt, plenty of black pepper, and stir to combine. Spoon about 1/4 cup of the hot white sauce into a small bowl containing the beaten egg, stirring the egg with a fork as you drizzle it in. Once combined, pour the mixture into the pot with the white sauce, stirring constantly. Add all the cheese in and stir them around to melt. Add the cooked macaroni and stir to coat. Splash in a little milk or hot water as needed for thinning. 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 x 13 inch baking pan generously. Lay half the cooked onions in the bottom of the pan, followed by half the macaroni, half the roasted mushrooms, half the Gorgonzola, and half the bacon. Repeat the layers, ending with the bacon. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until bubbly and hot. Delicious!

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