I can’t believe it’s Labor Day weekend. Where did summer go? I had all sorts of big plans for grilling and preserving and cooking up the flavors of our most bountiful season, but then poof, just like that it was gone. Not that I can complain too much: now it’s time to think about braising, tailgating, and all my favorite recipes that come with the fall.
That’s the beauty of this holy-crap-it’s-amazing baked macaroni and cheese — each and every bite carries the deep, smoky flavors of the August grill, but it is rich and hearty enough to hold you over all fall and winter long. I’ve been mastering my mac and cheese recipe for years now, and to be honest, I didn’t think it could be improved upon. One bite with my latest changes may have changed my mind!
This mac and cheese is easier than you could ever imagine, although it isn’t really for the faint of heart. (I usually swear to myself I’ll only make it once per year, but people request it so often and I can’t seem to say no.) Three cheeses each contribute to its perfection: cheddar adds the sharpness we’ve come to expect, white American adds creaminess that no others can, and smoked Gouda provides a subtle smokiness throughout. Heavy cream ties the dish together, with a splash of liquid smoke to send all the flavors over the edge. And what good is a baked mac and cheese without a crunchy topping; panko crumbs and butter add the perfect final contrast.
Try my smoky mac and cheese recipe this holiday weekend and I promise you’ll never go back to whatever version you were making before. You’ll be thanking me come tailgate season, too. It has a guaranteed spot on my starting roster and surely yours as well.
Smoky Mac & Cheese
Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Ease of preparation: Easy
12 ounces egg noodles
8 ounces smoked Gouda, shredded
4 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
4 ounces (6 slices) white American cheese, torn into very small pieces
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke (I used hickory flavored)
Kosher salt and white pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup panko crumbs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Bring a large pot of water to boil and season generously with salt. Add the pasta and cook until al dente (just tender) according to package instructions. Drain in a colander without rinsing, and return pasta to the pot.
While the noodles are still warm, add the Gouda, cheddar, and American cheese and stir until the cheese starts to melt. Add the heavy cream and season generously with salt and pepper. Pour the noodle mixture into a greased 8- by 11-inch baking dish (or one of a similar size).
Melt the butter and toss with the panko crumbs, and sprinkle mixture over the top. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and cook uncovered for an additional 15 minutes. Finish off under the broiler if you want to brown the topping just a bit more. Remove macaroni and cheese from the oven and cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Nealey moved from Alabama to the West Coast to follow her dreams, only to realize once there how much she missed good ol’ country cooking. So she took to the kitchen and began re-creating the dishes of her past, but this time without any help from a can. What started out as a hobby turned into an obsession, so she quit her day job to pursue cooking, and eating, fulltime. Dixie Caviar is where you can follow her pursuits of all things Southern.
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