Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Apple-Bacon-Cheddar Mac'n'Cheese

Apparently 6+ inches of snow in March requires a delicious pant popping meal like this one.  When I saw bacon + apple + cheddar I knew it was a winning combo, and now I am so full, I can hardly think.  This is a family friendly recipe - good for all ages unless of course you do not like bacon, apples or cheddar and then you'd just be crazy.

Apple-Bacon-Cheddar Mac'n'Cheese - (Rachel Ray)

6 slices bacon, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
2 granny smith apples - peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 leeks - white and light green parts thinly sliced crosswise, rinsed well and drained
1 pound elbow macaroni or shells
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup flour
3 cups milk, at room temperature
8 ounces sharp white cheddar, coarsely shredded (about 2 cups)
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees . In a large skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat, stirring frequently, until crisp, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate. Pour off all but 1 tbsp. fat, add the apples and cook, stirring frequently, until browned and beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

Place the leeks in a colander in the sink. In a pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta until al dente, 4 to 5 minutes; drain in the colander with the leeks to soften them.
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly, for 1 minute. Whisk in the milk; cook until smooth and thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and add 1 1/2 cups cheese and a generous sprinkling of pepper; whisk until smooth.

In a bowl, add the pasta and leeks, the sauce, apples and parsley; toss well. Reserve 1/4 cup of the bacon. Add the remaining bacon to the pasta; toss. Season with salt and pepper.
Divide the pasta among four 16-oz. baking dishes, top with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese and bake for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with the reserved bacon and serve hot.

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