Monday, November 22, 2010

Gluten Free Macaroni and Cheese

My sister-in-law had her baby last week!  A beautiful, healthy little boy.  They are home safe and sound and yesterday Jason and I went over to hang out and cook some food for the evening and into the rest of the week.

My sister-in-law is gluten-free and most of the time, especially when you cook a lot at home, a gluten-free diet can be adhered to without feeling like you are missing out!  However, when it comes to hearty comfort food, staying gluten-free is sometimes difficult.  She wanted something warm and filling, so Jason and I decided to adapt Tyler Florence's recipe for the Ultimate Mac and Cheese into a gluten-free, turkey bacon substituted version.  He called for just one type of cheese, but we ended up with a mix of four! 

And it was delicious.  The cheese blend was outstanding and the pea, onion, turkey bacon topping made the dish.  For those of you who eat pork, I might go with real bacon, but the substitution worked out great!  We made a giant double batch (2-3qt baking dishes worth), ate some last night, took some left overs home for us and left more than an entire pan for the new parents! 

A couple of notes,
1)  We bought the pre-shredded cheese from whole foods.  It is the only place I have ever seen shredded fondu cheese.  Feel free to subsitute whatever cheeses you would like.
2)  I like Ancient Grains Quinoa pasta.  It comes in a light blue box and can be found at Whole Foods, Dill Pickle Co-op and even stores like Strack and VanTil. 
3)  Bear in mind this makes 2 - 3qt. baking dishes of deliciousness.  I would recommend cutting the recipe in half or even in 1/4th.  It is very rich and a little bit goes along way.  One dish full of this is probably going to give 12 servings. 

2 pounds gluten free elbow macaroni
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar
4 cups shredded fondu cheese (gruyere and swiss)
4 cups shredded mild cheddar
6 Tbsp butter
3/4 cup rice flour
8 Tbsp corn starch
1/2 gallon 2% milk
1/2 cup chopped parsley
6 slices turkey bacon thinly sliced (substitute pork bacon if you like!)
1 onion diced
1/2 bag frozen peas
1-2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 garlic cloves minced
salt and pepper

--Preheat over to 400

--Bring water to a boil (we had to use two pots for all of this pasta), cook pasta as recommended and drain.  I find with gluten-free pastas you want to make sure they are quite al dente or they can fall apart.  This brand I use seems to hold up quite well.

--Mix all of the cheeses together in a large bowl (if you are using only 1 type of cheese you do not need to worry about this step)

--In a large sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat (you will be adding all of the milk and most of the cheese to this pan so make sure that it is large enough)

--Add the rice flour and cornstarch and whisk until the mixture begins to darken (you are essentially making a gluten-free roux)

--Add the milk and continue whisking until everything is dissolved and the sauce begins to thicken slightly

--Add 7 1/2 - 8 cups of the mixed cheeses to the pot and continue whisking until it becomes a lovely cheesey sauce.  Reserve the last 2 - 2 1/2 cups cheese for sprinkling at the end.

--Stir the chopped parsley into the cheese sauce and season with salt and pepper. 

--Fill both of the baking dishes about part way with pasta.  Begin spooning the cheese sauce over the pasta and mixing as you go.

--Continue adding pasta and sauce to the baking dishes until they are full.

--Sprinkle the leftover shredded cheese over the baking dishes

--Bake the pasta for about 30 minutes.  With two batches we had a dish on the top rack and one on the bottom.  Toward the end we switched them so that both were able to get nice and browned on the top.  Let sit to cool for a few minutes

--Meanwhile, sautee the turkey bacon in a pan

--Once crispy, remove, add a little oil to the pan and begin sauteeing the diced onion and garlic.  Strip the leaves off the thyme sprigs and add.  (turkey bacon doesn't give off any fat, if you are using real bacon you should not have to add any oil, in fact, you may want to pour off some of the bacon fat before adding the onion)

--Add a couple of cups of the thawed green peas to the onion sautee and mix until heated through.

--Once the onions are softened, return the bacon to the pan and remove from the heat.

--Serve a dollop of the macaroni and cheese sprinkled with some of the onion, bacon, pea mixture.

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