Smoked Gouda and Bacon Mac and Cheese

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I don’t really plan a menu for Thanksgiving dinner because my family expects the same meal every year. Thanksgiving is not the time for me to experiment with some exotic recipe I saw on a cooking show or discovered in a magazine. My family has expectations for Thanksgiving dinner, and whipping out a kale and wild rice turkey roulade on Turkey Day would cause an uprising at the dinner table. So to keep the peace, I stick to the same menu year after year. I might change a flavor profile of one or two dishes, but everything else stays the same.

This year I’m tinkering with the macaroni and cheese. Nothing major, just swapping out one of the cheeses with smoked Gouda. To neutralize any possible objections, I’ll throw a little bacon on top.  It’s like the Vulcan mind trick of food that inspires happiness. Bacon just makes everything better, and I’m sure my smoked Gouda mac and cheese will be a Thanksgiving winner because of it.

Let me know when you make this recipe. Take a picture and hashtag it #QUEENCITYKITCHEN. I can’t wait to see what you post!

Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Makes 8-10 servings

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 (16-ounce) package fusilli pasta (or whatever pasta you prefer)
¼ cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
2 (12-ounce) cans evaporated milk
1 cup whole milk
2 large egg yolks
1½ cup (6 ounces) shredded sharp Cheddar
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded smoked Gouda
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack
12 ounces Velveeta, cubed
¼ cup (1 ounce) grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon hot sauce
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Pinch garlic powder
½ teaspoon coarse-ground pepper
6 slices thick-cut bacon, cooked and crumbled

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a 13-by-9-inch glass baking dish; set aside

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon of the salt and the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, 7 minutes. Reserve ½ cup pasta cooking water then drain the pasta. Transfer the pasta to a large bowl and toss with butter until melted and the pasta is coated. Set aside.

While the pasta is cooking, heat the evaporated milk and whole milk in a large saucepan over medium heat. Do not boil.

Whisk ½ cup of the warm milk mixture with the egg yolks in a small bowl to temper. Whisk the egg mixture back into the pot of warm milk until combined.

Toss the cheddar, smoked Gouda, Monterey Jack, Velveeta, and Parmesan in a medium bowl to combine. Reserve a quarter of the cheese for the topping. Toss the remaining ¾ of the cheese mixture with cornstarch to coat. Add the cornstarch-coated cheese to the milk mixture and heat over medium-low heat, stirring to melt. Stir in the reserve pasta water, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, the remaining 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Do not let the mixture come to a boil.

Pour the cheese sauce over the cooked pasta and toss to coat. Transfer the pasta to the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the reserve cheese over the top of the pasta. Bake until until cheese is melted and light brown, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle the crumbled bacon on top and bake an additional 5 minutes. Cool 10 minutes before serving.

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