TIP: Got leftover mac and cheese in the fridge? Roll it into 2-inch balls; dip them into an egg wash; coat it with flower (or Panko bread crumbs and flower), repeat the coating, and fry them up! The fried mac and cheese balls pair well with warm marinara sauce.
Notes from the Test Kitchen:
Yummm! Everyone loves a good mac and cheese. Add bacon and beer to it... wow, takes it over the top! It was really good and creamy from the stovetop. But, just as good after it was baked too so serve based on your preference. Great comfort food.
Cook bacon thoroughly, and set aside to cool. Once cooled, crumble the bacon into small bits.
Boil macaroni according to package instructions, but reduce the time by 1-2 minutes. You want a slightly under-cooked, al dente pasta. Remove from heat and strain excess water.
LET'S MAKE A ROUX! Melt butter over medium-low heat. Add flour, and whisk continuously to avoid lumps.
Cook the butter and flour mixture for 4-5 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent burning. This will cook away the flour taste.
Slowly add a full bottle of beer while stirring vigorously. Light beers work well with cheddar cheese. But feel free to experiment with other beers and cheeses!
Stir in sour cream, and whisk continuously to avoid curds from forming.
Add shredded cheese to the pot, and stir until you have a nice cheese sauce.
Add salt, pepper, bacon bits, and mustard to the cheese sauce. Stir until combined. Depending upon the type of cheese you used, you may want to reduce or omit the salt.
Remove the cheese sauce from heat, and gently fold in the cooked macaroni.
At this point, you can eat the mac and cheese as-is for a hearty, creamy dish. Or, you can bake it with a golden, crispy crust! Note that if you bake this dish, it will loose its creamy consistency.
To bake the mac and cheese, pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees. Pour the pasta into a 9 x 11 casserole dish, and distribute the pasta evenly.
Combine Japanese Panko bread crumbs with Parmesan cheese, and sprinkle evenly over the top of the mac and cheese.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until you have a golden crust. Remove from the oven and LET STAND for 5 minutes before serving. This step is crucial since the pasta will continue to coagulate once out of the oven!