I like macaroni ‘n cheese; you like macaroni ‘n cheese… let’s face it, most people love macaroni ‘n cheese. In my case, it’s one of my favorite childhood memories. Just thinking about that wonderful macaroni swimming in a gooey cheese sauce just makes my mouth water.
We’re not talking about that stuff in the blue box… this is a kicked up version of macaroni ‘n cheese with a combination of cheeses, chicken, bacon, and a few other “special” ingredients.
This elevates macaroni ‘n cheese to more than a side dish… it’s a complete meal.
Mix the panko breadcrumbs with the Parmesan, some salt, pepper, and cayenne, and reserve.
Cook the pasta, according to package directions, until al dente.
Chef’s Note: Al dente is used to refer to food cooked so it is still firm to bite but not soft. This is very important to pasta, which should be removed from the cooking liquid just before it has fully cooked through, as like most foods, it will continue to cook after being removed from the heat source.
Place a rack in the middle position, and preheat the oven to 400f (205c).
Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat.
Once the foaming has subsided, whisk in the flour, and cook the roux for about 3 minutes.
Add the milk in a slow steady stream, while continuing to whisk.
Chef's Note: I typically like a dryer mac & cheese, but it you need your's a bit juicier, try adding about an additional 1/2 cup of milk. And if you want it richer, use half & half instead of milk.
Allow the mixture to come to a light boil, and then reduce to a simmer.
Chef’s Note: As the mixture begins to boil it will begin to thicken. Make sure that you keep whisking, so that there are no lumps. This process will take about 5 minutes of your undivided time.
Whisk in the crème fraîche, mustard, nutmeg, salt, pepper, & cayenne.
Add the cheeses.
Chef's Note: The cheese combinations are really up to you... these are two that I enjoy, but you might like something else... go for it.
Whisk until they have melted into the sauce.
Add in the bacon & chicken, and stir (not whisk) until combined.
Finally add the cooked & drained pasta and stir to combine.
Add the mixture to a baking dish, about 9x9 should do.
Chef’s Note: I like to make it more personal by adding it to individual ramekins. However, putting it all in a single dish and allowing people to scoop out their own portion is more rustic.
Cover with the Panko/Parmesan topping.
Place in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, until the top begins to brown.
Serve as a one-dish meal with some nice crusty bread. Enjoy.