From Roux to Béchamel to Cheese Sauce

Bacon Mac and Cheese

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Last week Chef thought me and my class how to make the Mother Sauces Da Da Daaa! So the mother sauces are Veloute, Espagnole, Tomato, Hollandaise and of course Béchamel. What I didn’t know is that all of these Mommies are rarely used as is but are turned into something different. We will be making Béchamel and turning it into a thick, creamy and cheesy sauce for everyone’s favorite comfort food Mac and Cheese! Only we are going to take it one step further and add bacon that’s right I said bacon! Just a few tips before we get started. First; roux is used as a thickener in most sauces and it is made with 50% fat and 50% flour, we’ll be using the fat from the bacon to make ours. Second; for this béchamel you will only cook the roux to a white stage it should have very little to no brown color to it. The roux stages are white, blond, brown and black the longer you cook it the darker it gets. Third; allow the béchamel sauce to cool down a bit before you add the cheese or you may end up with a broken cheese sauces, no fun.

Ingredients:

1 lb of pasta, elbow

4 cups of whole milk

1 bay leaf

1 garlic clove, peeled

2 small onion pieces

1 rosemary sprig

5 strips of thick cut bacon, cut to bite size

½ cup bread crumbs

4 tablespoons of flour

1 tablespoon of butter

2 lb of sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Start by putting a big pot of salted water on the heat for your pasta. Once the water comes to a boil cook the pasta till just al dente, you don’t want to overcook the pasta because it will continue to cook in the oven. Once it’s done, strain and set aside.

Next, heat the milk with the bay leaf, garlic, rosemary and onion. DO NOT let the milk boil, you only want to heat it so your aromatics will flavor the milk.

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Then start crisping your bacon. Be sure to render the fat, once it’s finished place it in a bowl with the bread crumbs and mix together. This will help to absorb any excess fat and keep the bacon crispy. Reserve the bacon fat in the pan.

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Now this is where you get a little naughty, using the same pan with the bacon fat put the butter and let it melt then add the flour and mix with a wooden spoon for about five minutes keep the heat on a medium-low. Stir until you have a nice white roux. Just note that this will have bits of brown from the bacon and that’s ok it will only add to the bacon flavor.

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It’s béchamel time. Have a whisk handy and strain the milk into the roux whisking as you pour. Once all the milk is poured, let the béchamel come to a boil. This is when it will reach maximum thickness. Turn the heat to low and let the béchamel cool slightly then add ¾ of your cheese and Voilà! Your béchamel has just turned into a cheese sauce. Now would be a good time to taste the cheese sauce and add a bit of pepper and salt.

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Now all that’s left is to mix the pasta and cheese sauce, place it in a baking pan and sprinkle the top with the bacon and breadcrumb mixture and the rest of the cheese. Bake for 30 minutes till nice and bubbly. Let the mac and cheese rest for 5 or 10 minutes before serving.

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I was super happy to learn this simple sauce that can be transformed into so many other things! Instead of cheddar cheese use parmesan and serve it over fettuccine pasta for fettuccine alfredo. Yummy! Or use it as the filling in homemade pot pies. Delicious!

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