Yeah, yeah...I know...it's grilling season when we all go super healthy and eat nothing but lean meats and fish and rainbow colored veggies and kale salads and we all absolutely GLOW with all the vitamins surging through our bodies in preparation for bathing suit season. Nobody craves those bad-for-you, but oh-so-good, carb-loaded dishes from the blustery days of winter. Nobody but me, apparently.
Mac n cheese was my downfall over the weekend. Obviously I somehow didn't manage to get my minimum daily requirement (MDR) of golden cheddar and toothsome, perfectly cooked pasta over the last few weather-appropriate-for-pasta months. So I fixed that oversight!
Of course, it wasn't ALL that bad...there was a healthy dose of pimientos mixed in to cover the veggie portion of this show. Vitamin C loaded pimientos - the essential ingredient of the down south favorite, pimiento cheese - counts as a good-for-you vegetable, right? Whew. In that case, pay no attention to the crisp and golden bacon bottom crust. LIKE YOU COULD!
How did I get that crunchy, golden, upside down bacon crust? My trusty old cast iron skillet. I lined it with thin strips of bacon, popped it into a HOT oven, cooked the bacon almost all the way through and then poured the macaroni and cheese mixture into the hot skillet.
Hot skillet + Bacon + Oven = Crisp, crunchy, golden crust. A few minutes of rest, once the skillet came out of the oven, and Bacon Crusted Upside Down Pimiento Mac n Cheese became reality.
Speaking of reality, remember that bathing suit season I mentioned earlier? No worries. There's LOTS of time to compensate for the mac n cheese transgression. There are almost three whole weeks to work this all off. Ooof.
|Ready to cut into wedges and serve!|
Bacon Crusted Upside Down Pimiento Mac n Cheese
- 1/2 lb elbow macaroni - you know I used a good gluten-free type to make this GF - cooked al dente
- 2 T butter
- 1 T cornstarch - check to be sure it's gluten-free to make this GF
- 1/2 t salt
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 cup milk - I use skim milk, but use what you like...there's so much cheese, what difference does it make?
- 10 oz. extra sharp cheddar, shredded
- 1/2 of an 8 oz container of Philadelphia Chipotle Cream Cheese spread - yes, you read that right...my secret ingredient for creaminess. If you don't like the heat, feel free to use 4 oz of regular cream cheese!
- 1 jar sliced pimientos, drained (you know, the bright red, squat jar Dromedary kind?)
- 8-10 slices of THIN-sliced bacon
Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees. Take a 9-10" cast iron skillet and line the bottom with with the strips of bacon. I did mine in a circular pattern and made sure the sides of the bacon strips touched. When the oven comes up to temp, pop the skillet into the oven and cook the bacon to almost done. Remove the skillet from the oven, CAREFULLY drain the dripping from the skillet.
While the bacon is cooking, in a saucepan, melt the butter and gradually add the cornstarch while whisking. When smooth, add salt & pepper. Gradually add milk, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens. Add the cream cheese and whisk until smooth, then add the cheddar and melt completely into the mixture; stir in the drained pimientos.
Add the sauce to the cooked, drained macaroni and set aside while keeping warm.
After cooking the bacon and draining the drippings, CAREFULLY pour the mac n cheese mixture into the HOT skillet right on top of the bacon in the skillet. Lower the oven to 400 degrees and bake for about 45 minutes.
Remove the skillet from the oven, let rest for 5 minutes or so, then run a knife around the perimeter of the skillet to loosen the contents.
Then take a large platter - larger than the cast iron skillet - and place the platter upside down over the skillet. CAREFULLY, using oven mitts, flip the skillet and platter over and let the contents sit for a moment before lifting the skillet. You should have a beautiful bacon-crusted vision of mac and cheese on the plate. Cut into wedges and enjoy!
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