I love comfort foods – mac and cheese, beef stew, chicken soup, anything slightly salty and full of butter. I tend to reach for them when I’m having a bad day or just because. I turn to comfort foods in times of celebration or when I’m in need of comfort. This mac and cheese is no different. It’s something I have been perfecting for about two years. Tweaks and modifications have led to a perfect mac and cheese – one with body that isn’t too rich. This particular flavor combination comes from my love of Saus’s cheddar duvel sauce. Though, it’s evolved from there. Something that started with cheddar and beer became more – I added mustard, I experimented with different beers – stout, reds, i.p.a.s, lagers, you name it I probably tried it in this mac and cheese. I made this particular mac shortly before St Patrick’s day so I had a nice Harpoon Celtic Red around, and it was (and is) my favorite.
I make macaroni and cheese pretty regularly – pasta, milk, and cheese are ingredients I always have on hand so it makes a quick meal pretty much any night of the week. I think that’s one of my favorite things about mac and cheese. It will work with most any cheese and will accept any additions. It’s always familiar and different, which I love. But this mac and cheese is a special one; BF and I use it to celebrate – jobs, raises, pretty much anything positive in our lives means I make this mac and cheese. The beer makes it rich and the mustard adds a great sharp flavor. Also – the benefit of being able to drink a beer while you’re cooking is AWESOME.
There’s something so comforting about that beer at the end of the day, and pairing it with cheese and mustard basically makes it a much more filling pretzel. And we all know how I feel about those.
Cheddar-Beer Mac and Cheese
- 2 Tbs butter
- 2 Tbs flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese (sharper=richer)
- 2-3 Tbs spicy mustard (I use Gulden’s, because it’s what I typically have on hand but your favorite will work just as well)
- 1 cup beer (lighter is better, this isn’t great with stout)
- 1 lb pasta, cooked to a bit less than al dente (I like a curly tube pasta, like cellantani or campanelle because they hold a lot of sauce and their shape)
- 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
- 2-3 Tbs melted butter
- 1 tsp crushed mustard seed (optional)
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Preheat your oven to 350 and oil a large ovenproof bowl.
- In a medium, heavy bottomed pot over medium heat melt the butter and mix in the flour until it becomes a paste. This is a basic roux and can be used for thickening in lots of ways.
- Add the milk to the roux and let it come to a simmer. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the cheese and stir to melt. The sauce will be quite thick.
- Stir the mustard into the cheese sauce. Gently add the beer, if the bottle is fresh it will be quite foamy. The sauce may slightly curdle at this point – don’t worry. Keep stirring and it’ll come back together.
- Add the cheese sauce to the cooked pasta and stir well. Pour the cheesy pasta into the oiled bowl
- Mix the panko crumbs, melted butter, and crushed mustard seed together. Spread the crumbs evenly over the cheesy pasta.
- Bake the mac and cheese for 30-40 mins, until the panko is crispy and lightly browned.
- Remove the mac and cheese from the oven and allow it to cool for 5-10 mins before eating.
- Enjoy with a beer!