It’s fall, and for me, that means harvest ales, boots, football, playoff baseball (!!!), and comfort food. When the weather took a turn towards chilly, I decided it was time to make some mac & cheese (not that 90 degree temps keep me from making mac & cheese, but it seems more appropriate when it’s cooler).
I wanted to put a Drink Michigan twist on my old favorite, so I decided to incorporate beer. I chose Brewery Vivant’s Solitude – a deliciously spicy Abbey Ale – because I had it on hand, and because I have a love affair with Brewery Vivant. I also decided to add bacon, because, well, everyone seems to be obsessed with bacon. Also, it tastes good in this dish.
This is the ultimate in comfort food for me. It’s like getting a giant, cheesy, beer-and-bacon-flavored hug.
Feel free to switch up the cheeses and the beer – I went with what I love, and what I had in the house.
- Pasta noodles (your choice – I like spirals)
- Olive Oil
- 3-4 strips of bacon
- Red Onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves
- 8oz. milk (I went with 2%)
- 8oz. Brewery Vivant Solitude
- 1 cup grated Asiago
- 1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- 1 cup grated Cheddar Jack
- Panko bread crumbs
- Salt & Pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and add a little olive oil – this keeps the pasta from sticking together. Add the pasta and cook until al dente.
Chop up the bacon into little pieces, and sauté in a large skillet over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove the bacon bits from the pan with a slotted spoon to a paper towel to drain.
Saute the chopped onion and garlic in the bacon fat until tender. Add salt & pepper to taste (but go easy on the salt, as the cheese will bring plenty of salty goodness to the party later).
Sprinkle 2-2 ½ tbsp. of flour over the onions and garlic. Stir to coat the veggies, and let it cook for 3-5 minutes to cook out the raw flour taste.
While whisking continuously, slowly pour in the milk and then the beer. Don’t stop whisking – you want to make sure there aren’t any lumps.
Let the sauce cook together and thicken for a few minutes. It’s not going to thicken as much as regular cheese sauce will because of the beer, but give it time to come together.
Add in the cheese, whisking to combine as you go.
Taste the sauce at this point and adjust the seasonings to your taste.
Let the sauce cook together for a few minutes. You’ll know it’s ready when it coats the back of a wooden spoon.
Ta-da! You have a beer cheese sauce! You could probably just stop here and eat it out of the pan with a spoon. I wouldn’t judge you.
Dump the drained pasta noodles into the cheese sauce and stir to combine. Add the crispy bacon bits back in at this point. (Or, if you’re not a fan of bacon, you can leave them out. There’s plenty of bacon flavor from the bacon fat).
Spray a 9×13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray, then pour in the mac & cheese.
Top with panko and more cheese if you like (I love the burnt cheese top).
Bake for 20 minutes. Remember, because of the beer, this is a looser mac & cheese. So when you cut into it, it’s going to fall apart.
Devour. But try not to eat all of it at once. You’ll probably have a heart attack if you do.