Last weekend, a friend of ours had a party with a mac and cheese bar. Apparently this is a thing? Think a big long table with all varieties of mac and cheeses, and then—and here’s where I was totally schooled—a variety of toppings. WHAT. I must be super slow in the whole social development thing, because I have never, ever heard of toppings for mac and cheese. Especially not anything like guac, roast veggies, sausage, and (my elixer of life) sriracha. I mean, I’ve always smothered mac and cheese with ketchup, but because I am a savage I smother everything in ketchup and generally avoid admitting it to anyone, ever.
Well anyway, for said mac-and-cheese-athon I was (as always) THAT gal who called ahead of time and let my host know that “oh-by-the-way I’ve got a ‘DIETARY RESTRICTION’ so you have to go out of your way to cater to my needs.” When faced with a potentially problematic situation I generally do a cost/benefit analysis based on occasion, type of food, and proximity to a toilet. I don’t have full-blown Celiac and I’m not going to sit here and pretend like I have some kind of deadly allergy like all the kids seem to be doing these days…I can totally handle a meal out as long as whatever I’m eating just has a dusting of flour on it or something (loves me some fried food) and I’m not just scarfing a bread basket. Helps if the place has multiple bathroom stalls, too–you know, to avoid blame.
But hipster-bashing aside, my insides are NOT fans of amber waves of grain, either. So wheat noodles smothered in a cheese sauce made with a wheat flour roux? In a one bedroom apartment filled with people? Better to be annoying than to fumigate the place with the bodily equivalent of nerve gas.
(Remember what happened to Megan in that scene from Bridesmaids at the bridal salon? Been there. More than once.)
OK, so all of this nerve gas fart talk was just my way of explaining to you that I used gluten free pasta.
Let’s mac some cheeeeeeeese.
I guess I was still on an apple cider kick. I’ve come to the stunning realization that bacon, cider, and sautéed apples go with everything. E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-A-N-G.
So, on a slightly related note…Gluten Free Pasta. There’s some good ones and some really, really not good ones. I’m a HUGE fan of Wegman’s brand GF pastas (corn-based), so if you’ve got a Wegman’s, look no further. If not, then I’d lean towards corn pastas since I think they taste exactly like regular old plain pasta. Brown rice pasta and quinoa pastas are fine, too. I wouldn’t freak out about it. Hipsters and celebrities love gluten free stuff, which means they’re generally less cardboard-y than int he past. Remember, the noodles are merely a vessel for the cheesy goodness that is this boozed up bacon sauce.
Honestly, I wouldn’t judge you if you just made a pot of the cheese sauce and sucked it through a giant straw while catching up on this season of Scandal. Not that I’d know.
- 12 oz macaroni noodles (I use gluten free)
- 2 thick slices of bacon, cut into lardons
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 apple, diced
- 2 T butter
- 2 T tapioca starch, arrowroot powder, or corn starch
- 1 c hard cider (regular apple cider or apple juice works, too)
- ½ c milk
- ¼ t nutmeg
- ½ t dry mustard
- 1 t garlic powder
- 2 c grated sharp cheddar
- In a heavy bottomed pan over medium high heat, cook the bacon until crisp. Set the bacon aside but save the drippings.
- In the bacon grease, add the onions and sautee until translucent.
- Add the apples and mix well. Cook the onion and apple for another 2 or 3 minutes, then remove from the pan and set aside.
- Turn the heat down to medium.
- Melt the butter and whisk in the tapioca starch, creating a roux.
- Add the cider, whisking constantly. Reduce by about half--the mixture will be very thick.
- Add the milk and seasonings, continuing to whisk.
- Turn down to low and add the cheese, apples, onions, and bacon, stirring to incorporate.
- Cook and drain your pasta. Make sure it is al dente.
- Add the noodles to the cheese sauce.
- Transfer to an 8x8 baking dish. At this point you can cover and refrigerate for later use, if desired.
- Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes, or until the top is slightly browned and the cheese is bubbly.