Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Bacon, beer and cheese: what's not to love?

The Craftbeericans' table

@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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I recently took part in a fundraising event called The Chef Clash in the Arena here in southern Illinois. The premise is simple, about a 100 men cook a dish and serve it to hundreds of hungry people at the SIU Arena. The event was a huge success, raising about $35,000 for the Gum Drops program (which provides weekend meals for hungry kids in our region) and St. Francis CARE animal shelter. This year First Mid-Illinois Bank & Trust was behind the fundraiser.

Each year that I've participated, I've centered my recipe around a project of mine. This year I made Craft Beer Mac and Cheese in honor of the Craftbeericans YouTube channel I co-host. My buddies Tom Harness made Beer Bottle Cap Brownies and Todd Ellis made bacon wrapped venison (I think, it was all gone by the time I got to his table to try it).

I found my recipe on the site Colorado Beer Girl, but I added bacon and used more than just cheddar cheese.  Full disclosure: Because I was multiplying the recipe by four, I think I screwed up along the way and had too many noodles and not enough cheese, so when in doubt add more. Let me know how it works for you. 


2 cups macaroni, cooked according to the package and drained

2 tablespoons of butter (use olive oil for a healthier substitute) 

2 tablespoons of flour

8 ounces of whole milk (I used 2%)

8 ounces of beer (I used Introvert Session IPA by Left Hand Brewing Company)

8 ounces of grated cheddar cheese (I also added colby jack, pepper jack and mozzerella)

4 ounces freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 package of real bacon bits

1/4 teaspoon of paprika

pinch of black pepper

pinch of nutmeg

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs


Preheat oven to 375.

Heat a saucepan over medium heat and add butter. Once melted and sizzling, whisk in flour to create a roux and cook until bubbly and golden (about two minutes).  Add milk and beer into saucepan, whisking constantly, then add cheeses and stir until melted. Turn down heat to medium and continue to stir, cooking for 5 to 6 minutes while mixture thickens. Stir in bacon bits, pepper, paprika and nutmeg.

Add noodles to a casserole dish, then pour cheese over the top, mixing gently to combine. Top with panko bread crumbs and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until bubbly and golden on top.

Remove from oven and let stand for five minutes.

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