Macaroni Cheese with Smoky Bacon
In San Francisco I stayed at The Andrews Hotel in Post Street. Atmospherically it was perfection, a tall narrow building with quite small rooms and only one lift. A buffet breakfast was laid out on each floor, but for most meals I tended to go to the diner just down the road, a great bar across the street called The Owl Tree, or to an Italian restaurant nearby, which had such dishes as pasta and clams, carbonara and a mac ‘n’ cheese. To begin with I was a bit put off, as all the dishes seemed to have too much of everything – too much sauce, too much cream, too much cheese; not a bit like Italy. But then, while into my second glass of Sonoma Cutrer Russian River Chardonnay, I began to think to myself this isn’t Italy, it’s California, and if they want to re-interpret classic dishes why shouldn’t they? Someone I met in Palermo once told me that the secret of good Italian dishes, as taught to her by her grandmother, is esagerare – put more of everything in – and so it is with this mac ‘n’ cheese recipe. There’s masses of cheese and plenty of smoked bacon.
|100g||butter, plus extra for greasing|
|1 heaped tsp||Dijon mustard|
|1.2 ltrs||whole milk|
|5 tbsp||double cream|
|400g||mature Cheddar, grated|
|20 turns||black peppermill|
|8 rasps||freshly grated nutmeg|
|100g||smoked bacon lardons or smoked pancetta cubes|
|50g||Parmesan cheese, grated|
Melt the butter in a large saucepan, stir in the plain flour and cook for a minute. Add the mustard, then take the pan off the heat and gradually whisk in the milk and cream. Add the bay leaf, put the pan back on the heat and cook the sauce, stirring constantly, until it boils and is thick and bubbling.
Take the pan off the heat again, remove the bay leaf and add the Cheddar, then keep stirring until the cheese has melted. Season with black pepper and nutmeg.
Boil the macaroni in a large pan of salted boiling water (with a ratio of 1 teaspoon of salt per 600ml of water) for about 10 minutes or until al dente, then drain well.
Butter an ovenproof dish that’s about 35 x 20cm in size and preheat the oven to 200°C/Fan 180°C. Fry the bacon lardons or pancetta until crisp and add them to the cheese sauce. Stir the cooked macaroni into the sauce and pour everything into the buttered dish. Mix the breadcrumbs with the Parmesan and scatter them over the top. Bake for 25–30 minutes until golden and bubbling. Serve with a green salad.