January 12, 2013 by caitlinvaclark
Earlier this week the weatherman (weatherperson, weather.com, whatever you want to call it) predicted snow for today, so I was really looking forward to a cozy snowfall. Snow is a surprisingly rare occurrence in London considering that it is wet all the time and it feels pretty freaking cold out there to me. I’ve been told it has something to do with some air pressure mumbo jumbo. Nonetheless, I have really been anticipating curling up in our conservatory with some hot chocolate and one of the many great books I’ve been trying to get around to. I could feel like I was in the thick of it, watching the snow flakes cover the sky, all while wrapped in a blanket, feet padded on heated floors (gotta love that about London, btw).
Now it has been pushed off until Monday or Tuesday. But I suppose it’s a good thing because I’ve heard that with snow’s seldom appearance, Londoners react very much like my brethren of the South: Everything shuts down. And I have to catch a flight to the good ole Southern United States at 5:30 tomorrow morning! No time for traffic issues or tube closures! I have people to see and a friend’s new baby to meet!!
Before I depart I wanted to leave you with an incredible mac and cheese recipe because on a cold snowy day, a dark rainy day, or a wintery-blues day everyone wants a bit of comfort food. AND this might be my BEST mac and cheese ever. For now, clearly, I will have to strive to do better, but here I give you Butternut Squash & Sweet Potato Mac and Cheese.
Don’t worry. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill “I used the squash to lighten up the dish and cut back on the cheese while still having it look classically yellow” mac and cheese. I start with bacon, finish with bacon, and have a secret cheesy weapon.
I start by cooking diced up bacon in a medium sized dutch oven. The bacon bits will be removed, but the tiny crumbles and some of the drippings will be the base of fat for the béchamel sauce. In one tablespoon of the bacon fat sauté an onion, add butter to make your roux, and thicken your cream sauce.
Meanwhile, roast up your small-diced butternut squash and sweet potatoes. I used this combination because my grocery store sells them together in an easy, prepared package. You could, of course, substitute both with just the one of your choosing. Mash the squash/potatoes until about half has been smoothed into the sauce and the other half remains chunky.
Now add lots of yummy cheeses! I start with a sharp cheddar, which melts great and fills the sauce with a punch of cheesy flavor.
Next comes my secret weapon – Stilton Cheese. I suppose you could use any good blue cheese. But hey, I developed this dish in England, so if you can, try to represent!
Once you’ve melted in all the cheese and stirred in the pasta, top with a bacon and panko breadcrumb mixture. Bake for 20 minutes or until the top is golden and the base is bubbly.
Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Mac and Cheese
12 oz elbow noodles
12 oz butternut squash and sweet potatoes, in small dices (use equal parts of each or whatever combo of the two that you have)
1 tsp olive oil
6 strips of bacon
1 tbs butter
2 tbs flour
¼ cup white wine
2 cups milk
¼ tsp nutmeg
8 oz shredded sharp cheddar
1 cup crumbled blue cheese (I used stilton)
¼ cup breadcrumbs
¼ cup parmesan
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 375.
Cook the elbow noodles in a pot of salted boiling water for 7 minutes, until just underdone.
Toss the squash and sweet potatoes with olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper and spread onto a cookie sheet. Roast for 15 minutes, until tender.
Cut the bacon into ½ inch pieces and cook in a large sauce pot over medium high heat. Once crisp, remove from the pan, drain on a paper towel, and reserve. Pour off all but 1 tbs of the bacon grease.
Reduce heat to medium and add 1 tbs butter to the pan. Once melted, whisk in the flour. Cook for 2 minutes then add the wine to deglaze the browned bacon bits. As wine cooks off and mixture thickens, slowly whisk in the milk. Cook for about 5 minutes until the milk thickens, stirring continually so the milk doesn’t burn.
Add the roasted squash and potatoes to the sauce. Using a potato masher, loosely mash into the sauce. About half should be smoothed in and half should remain chunky.
Season with the nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheeses. Once melted, mix the pasta back into the sauce. Top with the breadcrumbs, parmesan, and bacon crumbles. Crack pepper over the top.
Bake for 20 minutes. Let sit 5 minutes and serve.