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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Beer Mac n Cheese with Bacon Avocado Topping

Macaroni and cheese. Mac and Cheese. Mac n cheese. Cheesy mac. Doesn't matter what you call it, we are talking about pasta in a cheesy sauce. It's hard to screw up, but there are hundreds of thousands of variations.

This is a go to dish in our house and every time I make it, it ends up different based on available ingredients. In this one, beer becomes a substitute for buttermilk and gruyere gave way to blue cheese.

But without a lick of bread in the house for a crunchy topping, that's where I needed to get creative. All the makings of an avocado salad stared at me and I started to wonder how this would be in a cheesy macaroni? In a beer cheese macaroni? Bacon and tomato, sure that goes with pasta, cheese and beer. Avocado certainly works too. But could an avocado salad sit on top of mac & cheese?  There was only one way to find out.

We are calling this a successful venture. It's odd and fun at the same time. Alone, the beer mac and cheese is creamy and delicious with a hint of earthiness from the beer. And a bacon and avocado salad is perfect on its own. But together it's like a creamy little party with levels of flavors fighting for acknowledgement with every bite - in a fat and happy way. Plus, if you don't like it mixed, you can just serve the avocado salad on the side.

Fat and Happy Food Blog Tips and Techniques: For the beer, choose something like a Modelo or even a lighter pumpkin beer. A stout or porter would be too heavy in this particular recipe.

Beer Mac and Cheese with Bacon Avocado Salad Topping

8 oz dried pasta
1/4 cup onions, diced fine
1 Tbls olive oil
1/2 Tbls butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbls butter
1 tbls flour
1/2 cup beer
1 cup half and half
4 oz cream cheese
1/2 cup cheddar, shredded
1 oz blue cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
salt and pepper

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. 

In a medium sized casserole pan, saute the onions in the olive oil and butter until the onions are softened. Add in the garlic and flour. Stir and cook about 2-3 minutes.

Whisk in the beer, then stir in the half n half and cream cheese. Allow this mixture to simmer for at least 5 minutes. Add in the cheddar and blue cheese, stir to combine. Add about 1 tsp black pepper. Turn off the heat and let the cheese get a melty from the heat.

Toss in the cooked pasta and stir well. Add in the Parmesan cheese, taste, then add salt as needed. Serve with a spoon of the Avocado Salad.

 Avocado Salad

5 slices bacon
1/2 cup + 2 Tbls onions, diced small
1 avocado
1 small tomato
pinch hot pepper
1 orange, juiced
salt and pepper

Slice the bacon into about 1 inch pieces. Cook in a fry pan until just before preferred doneness is reached. Add in the 1/2 cup chopped onions. Continue to cook the bacon and onions a few more minutes until the onions are softened and bacon is fully cooked. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

Dice the avocado and tomato, toss in the bacon pan with the remaining 2 tablespoons raw onions, hot pepper flakes and the orange juice. Add a pinch of salt and pepper to taste.

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