Bacon-Sriracha Mac and Cheese

Is there anything better than stick-to-your-ribs homemade mac and cheese?

Yes: stick-to-your-ribs homemade mac and cheese with bacon. And Sriracha.

I’ve made this plenty of times for dinner parties, BBQs, and other gatherings, and it’s always a hit. Homemade mac and cheese is also fairly quick and easy to make–there is no reason for you to buy the bright orange prepackaged stuff (although, I did live off of it in college. But we’re all grownups now). I found this recipe from chow.com, and you can find the link at the bottom of this post. It’s a solid staple recipe, which can be tweaked by adding a little extra sumpin sumpin, like I did.

You will need:

  • 1 pound elbow macaroni (16 oz package)
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick)
  • 4 cups whole milk (1 quart)
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
  • 3 ounces pepper jack cheese (the original recipe calls for pecorino romano)
  • 1/4 cup sriracha sauce, keep the bottle on hand to drizzle on top
  • 5 slices of bacon, cooked and chopped
  • 2/3 cup panko bread crumbs

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and set a rack in the middle.

First things first, you want to fry up that bacon. Cook the bacon in whatever way works best for you–stovetop or oven–and give the finished product a rough chop. Set aside and get a pot of salted water up to a boil. You’ve got a pound of macaroni to cook, so make sure it’s big enough! Cook the macaroni according to the instructions on the package, drain, and set the cooked pasta aside.

Pour the milk into a saucepan or pot and heat it up. You don’t want to get it boiling, or it will scald and burn. Once it starts to simmer, turn the heat off and set it aside.

Melt the stick of butter in a large saucepan. When it’s all melted, add the flour and whisk together until it forms a nice, light roux. The flour should not be clumpy, and the mixture should look like it’s all incorporated with no raw bits of flour. Then, add the hot milk and keep whisking until it forms a béchamel. Look at us, getting all fancy. Now you can tell your friends you’ve made a béchamel sauce. You can tell the sauce is done when it starts to thicken up and smooth itself out, usually after just a couple of minutes. Take a wooden spoon, dip it in the mixture, and it should coat the back of the spoon. If you take your finger and run a line down the back of the spoon, the line should hold, like this (not my image, got it from google):

IMG_3875Now, you want to add all that glorious cheese to the mixture. The original recipe calls for pecorino romano in addition to the cheddar, but I like pepper jack because it’s spicy and melts really nicely. It’s totally up to you! Once your cheesy sauce is looking smooth, stir in the Sriracha. Now, if you’re like me and enjoy spicy food, you can increase the amount of Sriracha. I know, it’s spicy on its own, but with all the cheese and pasta, it really counterbalances the heat component and just leaves that distinct spicy/sweet flavor. Don’t be afraid of the Sriracha, is what I’m saying. Your sauce mixture should be a nice pale red, kind of like russian dressing. Then add the cooked pasta and bacon, and mix until everything is well incorporated. Pour the whole mess into a 13×9 baking dish. 

Melt two tablespoons of butter and mix with the panko bread crumbs. Sprinkle the mixture on top of the mac and cheese–the butter will help the bread crumbs toast up nicely in the oven. Stick that bad boy in the oven for 25 minutes, or until it’s nice and bubbly and golden on top. If you’re feeling adventurous, drizzle some more Sriracha on top of the final product. Grab a fork and dig in!

recipe adapted from: http://www.chow.com/recipes/30436-homerooms-classic-macaroni-and-cheese

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