Guinness mac n cheese is a thing and it is amazing.
It goes like this...
A thick, creamy, velvety bechamel. Add creme fraiche - this is something I add to any mac n cheese sauce I am making, and once you try it, you will never go back. Add super sharp cheddar. Add Irish SMOKED cheddar (yes it is a thing and you get find it here or here. I prefer the latter as it is sharper). Finally add GUINNESS (or I guess any kind of stout beer, but this is the only one I have ever had). And there you have it perfect Guinness Mac N Cheese.
Fold into mini penne noodles and top with garlic-thyme bread crumbs and a touch of parmesan cheese.
Full disclosure in life - I DO NOT LIKE CHEESE MOSTLY AT ALL. When I say mostly at all, it is because there is a few exceptions...I will eat American cheese. I will eat cheddar in a sauce or cold only. I will eat parmesan and pecorino in all forms. I will eat feta cold in a salad, same for blue cheese. I don't eat cheese on pizza (don't you f'ing laugh). I don't eat American-style lasagna (that's right real Italian lasagna is not full of ricotta or mozzarella). I don't eat melted swiss, gruyere, cheddar or any kind of cheese that pulls apart stringy. I don't know exactly what phobia or diagnosable disorder I have, but it is definitley something, because there are serious lines I will not cross when it comes to cheese.
What is bechamel?
Quick lesson here and because bechamel is something I use alot. Bechamel is a European white sauce that is made with a flour and butter roux and hot milk. This is the general base and then you can add all sorts of things to flavor. In this recipe we use the cheddar cheeses, creme fraiche with gives a nice tang to the sauce and the guinness which just adds...I don't really know...a savory element that elevates the entire dish. You know it is in there, but you can't really tell exactly what it is or why you f'ing love it so much.
Tips for a successful Guinness Mac N Cheese
Last few things just in case...
- Don't boil the sauce once you have added the cheese. In the recipe instructions I say to remove from heat before adding the cheese. I am not joking. You will break the sauce and it will curdle if you boil it. This goes for all cheese sauces in general. Add your cheese last after the bechamel has fully thickened OFF HEAT.
- Warm the guinness before adding to the cheese sauce. Guinness is the last addition in this recipe and you should add it warm.
- Use a good pasta shape with a center. I use mini penne because it feels more grown up than elbow, but you can totally use elbow. Just make sure to pick a noodle with a center to soak up all the cheese sauce.
- Cook your noodles al dente. This means firm, with a bite to them. You are going to fold them into a creamy sauce and then bake them again. Firm noodles will hold up to the heavy sauce and they will continue to cook absorbing the creamy cheese sauce.
Last the breadcrumbs. These are totally optional, but I highly recommend this addition. They are simple enough to assemble and add a nice texture to the entire dish.
Guinness Mac N Cheese
- One pound box of mini penne or pasta or your choice cooked al dente
For the cheese sauce
- 4 tablespoons of butter
- 4 tablespoons of flour
- 3 ½ cups of whole milk
- tiniest pinch of nutmeg
- two tablespoons of creme fraiche you can leave this out if you don't have any or can't find
- 1 cup shredded smoked cheddar cheese
- 3 cups of sharp cheddar cheese white or yellow
- ½ cup Guinness or other stout beer warmed in saucepan
- salt and white pepper to taste
For the bread crumb topping
- 2 tablespoons of butter
- three sprigs of time
- one garlic clove smashed and chopped finely
- one cup of panko bread crumbs
- Heat milk in a saucepan until it is steaming - don't boil - so use a low flame. In another large saucepan, melt butter. Add flour to melted butter and whisk together over medium heat cooking for about two - three minutes. You want to be able to smell a sort of nuttiness to it, cooking out the raw flour taste - and this is called a roux.
- To the roux, SLOWLY pour in the hot milk whisking constantly to incorporate. Add your pinch of ground nutmeg. Continue cooking this until you see a few bubbles pop up and it is thickened.
- Remove the bechamel from the heat and whisk in the creme fraiche first. Next whisk in both cheeses until fully incorporated. Last whisk in the Guinness. Salt and pepper the sauce to taste.
- Preheat your oven to 400 and grease a baking dish, a pretty big one. Add your al dente noddles to the dish and pour the cheese sauce over, careful not to spill all over and waste some of that glorious sauce. Toss together and spread across the pan.
- In a saute pan melt the butter over medium heat, and add the garlic and thyme and cook for a minute, just until fragrant. Add the breadcrumbs and toast ever so slighty, combining with the garlic and thyme. Add a little salt and pepper to taste. Pull the thyme twigs out.
- Top the mac n cheese with the breadcrumb mixture and bake in the oven until bubbly and brown. If you assemble ahead of time and refrigerate, it will take longer to bake, if you assemble and throw right in oven already hot, it will not take that long, so pay attention to the the dish in the oven.