I always feel blessed that I fell in love with a man who is not a picky eater. No, really. He rarely complains about what is put in front of him, even if it is the same leftovers 3 nights in a row. Even though he seems to enjoy everything I make him, I know there is a special place in his heart for Macaroni and Cheese.
It is one of the dishes he used to ask his Mom to make him for his birthday dinner. Now, her recipe is amazing, but calls for several cheeses that are pretty hard to find in our small town. Hers comes with a classic bechamel - complete with nutmeg and the bay leaf. I have made it a few times, and love the recipe but it just isn't practical to throw together for an average night.
I tend to not make macaroni and cheese because I am not a fan of Velveeta. I want my homey side dish to have some sophistication and depth. Yeah, I sound like a total pasta snob...
This post is my May edition of The Secret Recipe Club recipe exchange. This month I was luck enough to be assigned Little Bit of Everything with Julie.
This was the first month ever that when I went to her site, the first recipe that popped up was 'The One'. I spied this Smoked Mac n Cheese recipe and despite an entire blog chock full of mouth-watering recipes, I couldn't think of anything but this mac n cheese.
Julie is a Midwesterner with similar interests to my own. She enjoys cooking, traveling and gardening, and I wouldn't mind making every single recipe she has listed. But, of course, there was no competition with the recipe of hers I picked.
Now, this pregnant mama doesn't really need a rich dish to tempt her with... but I was intrigued by using my smoker to make something my family already loves. My husband is the grill master. I tend to stick to the oven and stove inside. This was my chance to play around with the Traeger. Inspired by Julie's fabulous recipe, I did take a few liberties by adjusting the time and temperature to fit my smoker, as well as added in some garlic and crunchy topping. I think I did a good job of keeping this great recipe close to the original with my own flair.
This is a pretty easy recipe to follow, and you can find the complete instructions at the end of this post. But, let's walk through all the steps together, shall we?
I think the key to a good mac n cheese recipe is the sauce. It is the foundation for delivering all that cheese goodness around the pasta. Really, no one gets excited about the noodles. I mean, really? It is all in the ooey-gooey stuff those little noodles swim in.
The other star here is a good Gouda. Luckily, since this dish is going on a smoker, don't bother to shell out extra for smoked Gouda. A nice medium cheese will do fine.
...and here we get to the beautiful bubbly sauce. The cream cheese really helps to tighten this up and add a creaminess that is divine. I added in a little extra cracked black pepper and garlic. That is just how I roll.
I always think the more the merrier with cheese! This recipe calls for cream cheese, Gouda, sharp Cheddar and Parmesan. It is one big boisterous party of flavors in there.
Don't let your sauce get too tight. The smoker will dry it out a little and really bring it together. I like to start baking mine a little on the thinner side. But, prepare as you like.
I topped mine with some bread crumbs and the remaining cheese. After a few years of marriage I found out the crunchy topping was my husband's favorite part. I have learned not to omit it. But, again, he rarely complains about it.
*Note - next month I will be taking a little break from the SRC as I welcome my 3rd child into the world. We have already named him Elliot and I can't wait to meet him. Of course, I look forward to getting back onto my feet and back into the kitchen.
Okay, ready to dive right in? This recipe has been modified to work on the Traeger brand smoker. For exact temperature and times refer to your brand's website or manual. Here we go!
Smoked Mac n Cheese
adapted from Little Bit of Everything
You Will Need:
- 1 lb. macaroni noodles
- 1/4 c. butter, unsalted + 1 tsp. for noodles
- 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
- 3 c. milk
- 8 oz. cream cheese, cut into chunks
- garlic powder to taste
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 c. Sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded
- 2 c. Gouda, shredded
- 1 c. Parmesan, shredded
- 1 c. bread crumbs of choice
Make sure your Traeger has sufficient wood chips or pellets. With the door open to the smoker, turn on to smoke for about 5 minutes. Then shut the lid and preheat the smoker to 350 degrees for about 15 minutes.
Boil the pasta 2 minutes short of al dente as listed on the box. When the pasta is done, drain and add a a tsp. of butter to keep the noodles from sticking together. Set aside.
While the pasta is boiling, begin on the sauce. In a large saucepan, melt the butter and whisk the flour into it. Over medium heat, let the flour and butter become fragrant, but keep whisking so it doesn't burn. Slowly whisk in the milk, careful to whisk out any lumps. Cook for about 5 minutes until the sauce begins to thicken and come to a simmer. Add the cream cheese and whisk until smooth. Add the garlic powder and salt and pepper to taste.
Stir in the cheese, reserving a handful for the top. Stir until melted and then mix in the pasta to coat. Pour into an 11 x 9 1/2 inch roasting pan and top with bread crumbs and remaining cheese.
Place in the smoker, uncovered, for 45 minutes to an hour.
Now check out what my fellow Secret Recipe Club members have been up to: