Sunday, November 13, 2011

Macaroni and Cheese with Bacon, Leeks and Thyme

Every now and then I have a "new kitchen experience."  I could just keep them to myself, but as you all know, I'm not really a private person.  I live life out loud and if you ask me how I'm doing "fine" is never the answer.  So in my successes and my failures, in triumph and tragedy, I write and share.

We had friends coming over just for the day.  I decided to get up early before church and whip up some home-made comfy-cozy mac and cheese.  But maybe a little dressed up?  Found this great site for mac and cheese.  Some great ideas.

Speaking of dressed... I was in my robe, with my life line coffee mug in hand, hair pulled back into a "get to work" up-do.  It was time to cook.

Macaroni and Cheese with Bacon, Leeks and Thyme

1/2 pound thick-sliced bacon
2 leeks, cleaned and thinly sliced crosswise (white and light green parts only)
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1 pound medium pasta shells (or any noodles you would like)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup flour
3 cups half and half
8 ounces (about 2 cups) sharp white cheddar, shredded
6 ounces (about 1 1/2 cups) good havarti, shredded
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat oven to 375 and butter a 9x13 baking dish.

First the leeks.  Some people are really anti-leek.  I don't know why.  They are like the ginormous cousin to the green onion and are just as tasty.  So what?  They are dirty and have sand.  No big deal.  Time for a little bath.

After chopping off both ends, cut leeks in half long ways.  I know, ew... look at the dirt.  I just like knowing it came from the ground and not a lab.  A whole new definition to earthiness.

Chop them like you would a green onion and then put them in a bowl of cold water to get dirt off.  Drain and rinse one more time.  Perfection.

Start your large pot of water and bring to a boil.  Ready to add salt and noodles.

So back to me and my robe... so there I was frying up the bacon.  Most of you dedicated readers know I'm a "bacon in the oven" kind of girl, but I needed the grease in the pan for the leeks, so stove top it was.  I had forgotten about a small soup boil-over the night before on the same burner.  

I turned around to tend to the leeks and within moments there was a 12 inch flame around the pan!  I immediately screamed at for Chris (also in his robe and coffee in hand... so funny how he brought his coffee to my life threatening yell).  But to his credit, my hero swooped in just in time.  

Seeing the fire was under the pan and not in it, I picked up the pan and Chris threw water on the burning soup that was in the catch tray under the burner.  (We did review later when NOT to throw water on a kitchen fire (oil etc...) I'll let you youtube that one).

NOW WE WERE AWAKE!  Disaster avoided.  Married a hero capable of saving me from the flames: check.  Tamed home kitchen fire: check.  We were off to a good morning.  

No harm done to the bacon.  Nice a crispy.  Not "up in flames" kind of crispy, but the perfectly cooked crispy.

Add your squeaky clean leeks to the bacon grease.  I love that part.  Yep, clean 'em so you can get 'em dirty again.  This is when the skinny lady on TV says "fat is for flavor" and we all say "Amen!"

Once leeks are softened under medium heat add the bacon back in (chopped) as well as the thyme (just leaves not sprigs, also chopped).  Things are starting to smell heavenly again.  New scents are taking over the burning fire smell that previously owned my kitchen for a few short minutes.  

When your pasta is done cooking (according to instructions for al dente) drain and set aside.  Using the big pot melt your butter over medium heat and then stir in flour to create your rue (cook just a minute or so).

Whisk in half and half until it just begins to thicken.  Stirring constantly, except to add salt and pepper, along with your cheeses at the end.

Turn down the heat.  Add the goodies to the sauce.

Hurry your noodles into the mixture.  They are so happy to be back in the pot.  Noodles in the colander are like kids out of the pool waiting and shivering for their turn for the diving board: they can't wait to get back the water!

Place in oven uncovered for 25-30 min.

This was so delish.  I loved how the cheddar and havarti complimented one another.  And the bacon and leeks.  OH!

Just. So. Good.  America's #1 comfort food according to the great Alton Brown.  You better get on this fast!


  1. Bacon and leeks. Amen. Pasta and Cheese. Halleluia. Looks fabulous. Funny story on the fire. Coffee saved the day, right?

  2. I want to try this since it adds some veggies/herbs! The one I've made is delicious and has bacon, but no veggies. The baby needs some veggies.

    1. Indeed! Lots of great veggies would be great. I added spinach, kale and baby Swiss chard to tonight's round up!

  3. Got everything but the Havarti to make this lovely dish! Bacon makes everything better doesn't it? One more thing, you get that live your life out loud from me your mother. :)

    1. Another creamy cheese would be suitable as well lively mother! Fontina would work. I like to match a sharp cheese with a softer creamy variety. That way the balance in taste and mouthfeel is achieved! Then again... I love your Mac-n-cheese, so you must be doing something right!