Mac Daddy

Seth James Ellis Issue: Section:

I used to fancy myself a food blogger. I had these epic plans to author the next Smitten Kitchen or 101 Cookbooks. In the end, though, as the editor of our own Urban Campfire knows, I couldn’t hack the deadlines. It turns out, all I liked to do was cook. To write, and edit, and photograph, and re-write, and edit again, well, it all proved to be too much.

So I simply cooked.

Turns out, I’m pretty good at that piece. Whether it’s a nod to French cuisine (cuisine du potager or cuisine du marché as David Liebovitz recently wrote) with elaborate sauces, or simple pieces of roasted meat served with equally simple roasted vegetables, I can consistently turn out a meal worth blogging about most nights.

I just never got to the writing.

Nevertheless, there was a blog with my name on it once, and the following recipe comes from that blog. In fact, it’s the last post I ever did…on December 18, 2012. Oops.

It’s on the simpler side, but this macaroni and cheese will be the star of your next dinner party, picnic, potluck, or weeknight dinner at home with a bottle (or two) of Pinot Noir.

Seth’s Mac n’ Cheese

Serves 4 entrée sized portions

2 cups macaroni

4 T. butter

4 oz. pancetta, minced

1 large shallot, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

2 T. flour

1 T. prepared yellow or Dijon mustard

1/8 t. cayenne pepper

2 c. whole milk, half-and-half, or a combination of both

1 c. medium cheddar cheese, shredded

1 c. gruyere or fontina cheese, shredded

1/4 c. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely grated

1/8 t. nutmeg

Salt and black pepper, to taste

1 c. panko bread crumbs

2 T. butter, melted

1 handful medium cheddar cheese, shredded


Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

Par boil macaroni in rapidly boiling water for 2-3 minutes, then rinse with very cold water to stop the cooking. Set aside.

In a large Dutch oven, sauté pancetta over medium-low heat until rendered and crispy. Remove from the pan, but retain the oil.

Add butter, then sauté shallot over medium heat until translucent, 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and continue cooking for one additional minute.

Add flour and sauté for two minutes, stirring constantly, to cook off the flour taste.

Add mustard and cayenne, stir to combine.

Add milk and whisk vigorously to combine all ingredients, and dissolve the flour. Don’t worry if you splatter a bit – you’re cooking!

When mixture comes to a simmer, lower the heat to low and slowly add all three cheeses, 1/4 cup at a time until dissolved and the mixture is smooth.

Add nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Stir.

Add par-cooked macaroni to the sauce mixture. Add the reserved pancetta and stir to combine.

Pour into a prepared 9x9” or similar baking dish.

In a small bowl, combine panko, melted butter, and remaining cheddar cheese. Sprinkle evenly over the top of macaroni.

Place baking dish on the middle rack of the oven, covered with aluminum foil.

Bake for 30 minutes, then remove foil and bake an additional 15 minutes until cheese is melted and everything looks so good you want to eat it straight from the oven. Don’t.

Let cool for 5-10 minutes, then serve.

This dish is good hot, at room temperature, served cold the next morning, or, for a real treat, in a grilled cheese sandwich along with several slices of cheddar cheese.


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