I spent almost the entire weekend cooking.
See, I have party-control issues. Especially Super-Bowl-party-control issues. Basically I get overly excited that people are coming over and I want to try out lots of different recipes, and I want everything to adhere to a theme.
I usually spend about two full days cooking enough food for three times the number of people who are actually coming. This year wasn’t much different, although I did do a lot better in terms of planning so I was able to get a reasonable amount of sleep and have almost everything done before people arrived.
My theme this year was bourbon and beer. Obviously I had to make this beer mac & cheese — the brilliant idea of Jessica of How Sweet It Is. After all, beer-cheese fondue is delicious, so why wouldn’t the addition of pasta make it even better? And what is more perfect for a Super Bowl party than beer+cheese+noodles?
I think your best bet is to use an amber beer. I used Fat Tire, and the end product had a slight hint of beer that wasn’t overpowering at all (and I don’t really like to drink beer). I’m afraid a stout might be too beer-y, an IPA would be too hoppy and a light beer might not have enough beer flavor to justify adding it in the first place. But I could be totally wrong, so please do let me know if you try it with another type of beer.
Does anyone know what the deal is with orange extra-sharp cheddar and limes? Is there some kind of shortage? I have had a terrible time finding either in the past few months. So I used a combination of white sharp and orange regular cheddar cheese. Plus lots of Parmesan.
If you’re concerned about the beer flavor, definitely taste the cheese-beer sauce before you pour it over the noodles. It should be delicious. If it’s not, that’s the best time to add more cheese or a little more milk or beer to balance out the flavors. Then mix it all up, sprinkle some panko on top and stick it in the oven. Beer-cheesiness awaits.
Beer macaroni and cheese (Serves 10-12, adapted from How Sweet It Is)
1 pound sharp or extra-sharp cheddar cheese (plus a little more for good measure)
5 cups uncooked elbow noodles
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups whole milk
2 cups (16 ounces) beer (amber ale recommended)
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Panko bread crumbs (1/2 to 1 cup, depending on shape of casserole dish)
Preheat the oven to 375*. Grate the cheese and set aside. Put a large pot of water on the stove to boil the noodles, then cook them until almost done (about 2 minutes less than what the package recommends). Drain the noodles and pour into a large baking dish.
Heat a medium or large saucepan over medium high heat. Add the butter. Once the butter is melted and bubbly, whisk in the flour and cook for a few minutes, until the mixture is a golden brown color.
Slowly pour the milk and beer into the saucepan while whisking. Turn the heat down to medium and continue cooking, whisking occasionally (and drinking the leftover beer), until the mixture thickens. Then add the cheeses and stir the mixture until the cheese is pretty much melted. Stir in the spices.
Taste the cheese sauce and make sure the flavor is good (add more cheese if you think it’s too beer-y or too thin), then pour it over the noodles in the baking dish. Stir a little to make sure the noodles are coated. Sprinkle the panko bread crumbs and some additional grated cheese over the top.
Bake until the cheese sauce is bubbly and the top is golden, 30-40 minutes.
*I baked mine at 325 because I was cooking brisket at the same time. It will cook faster and probably get more browned and crispy on top if you do it at 375.