Party Food

Feeding A Crowd: Smoky Bacon Mac And Cheese

smoky bacon mac and cheese

I’ve been lurking on the community-driven website, Food52, for a long time now. I’ve found some wonderful recipes there and have enjoyed the editorial content, but I never participated other than leaving a comment or two. But the other day, I noticed their recipe contest for Your Best Cheap Feast. It was high time I submit my own recipe, even if it was just as an excuse to put it in writing.

I came up with this Smoky Bacon Mac and Cheese when I was competing in that All-American Cook-Off with Paula. I was inspired by A Cozy Kitchen’s Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese, but thought bacon and scallions might make it even better. And then at the last second decided, oh what the heck, let’s throw in some smoked paprika too and take the smokiness to the next level. It worked out really well! Even though I didn’t win the actual cook-off, I received many compliments on the mac and cheese.

So if you ever need a simple, inexpensive dish to serve a lot of people, here it is. My Smoky Bacon Mac and Cheese. Or if you’re already on Food52, you can save it here. It’s sinfully delicious…just don’t be like me by eating it in place of a balanced meal. I’ve been trying to avoid buying food before I leave for vacation. San Francisco, here I come!

smoky bacon mac and cheese dish

Smoky Bacon Mac and Cheese

Adapted from A Cozy Kitchen

1 lb package elbow macaroni
5 slices bacon, cut crosswise into small strips
5 scallions, white and green parts chopped and separated
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups milk
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
8-oz sharp white cheddar cheese, grated and divided (about 2 cups)
8-oz smoked gouda cheese, grated and divided (about 2 cups)

Preheat oven to 400. Lightly grease an 8 x 11 x 2 baking dish.

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

In a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, cook bacon until it is browned and the fat is rendered, about 10 minutes. Throw in the white part of the scallions with the bacon for the last 3 minutes of cooking, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and set aside.

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk in flour until smooth. Continue whisking while gradually adding the milk one cup at a time. Cook for 5 minutes until thickened. Reduce heat to low and stir in salt, black pepper, and most of the cheese, reserving about a cup of cheese. Once the cheese has melted, remove from heat and stir in the bacon and scallion mixture, as well as the green part of the scallions.

Pour the pasta in the greased baking dish. Spoon the cheese sauce over the pasta, stirring to even out the sauce in the pan. Sprinkle the remaining cup of cheese on top, then sprinkle the smoked paprika over the cheese. Bake for 20 minutes until hot and bubbly

Party Food

Any Excuse to Use Sriracha Sauce!

I love Sriracha. Never mind that I have the wimpiest tolerance to heat and spice, I find any excuse to use that stuff. I’m not usually a bean dip type of girl, but when I saw this recipe for Spicy Sriracha White Bean Dip, I was all over it. It’s super quick and easy to make, and pretty clean too. So next time you need a little healthy snack or are too lazy to cook a real meal, whip up some Sriracha bean dip! Scoop it up with homemade baked tortilla chips or veggies. Yum.

Party Food

Rusty Chef Cook-Off Round 4: The All-American Cook-Off

Remember that Mexican cook-off I won recently? I was challenged by one of the guest judges. Rusty Chef Round 4 took place last month. Our theme this time was an interesting one: American.

Chef Paula from The Glorified Tomato went for a fancier, New-American style while I attempting putting a fun spin on classic American foods. Paula really knows her shit so I knew this was going to be a tough competition!

For my appetizer, I made buttermilk biscuit sliders with crumbled blue cheese, caramelized onions, and spicy mayo.

My main course was a smoked gouda mac and cheese with bacon, scallions, and smoked paprika.

I was hoping to attempt making ice cream from scratch for the first time, but that didn’t pan out. Instead, I made mini hazelnut ice cream sundaes with homemade caramel sauce,  peanut butter chocolate halvah, popcorn, and peanuts.

Paula made a spinach salad with apples, walnuts and Belgian feta for her appetizer.

Her entrée was filet mignon with potatoes and asparagus with hollandaise sauce.

Inspired by New Orleans, her dessert was corn bread with strawberry sauce.

Paula won in the end. I was a little sad that I didn’t get to write my usual obnoxious “Iris wins again, yay!” But still very happy because a) I thought I did a great job and was much more creative with my dishes, instead of relying on recipes like past cook-offs, b) it was so fun, c) I get to be a guest judge next time…FINALLY.

Check out Katie’s post about the cook-off at The Glorified Tomato. Unfortunately our photos are the same because we only had one photographer, but it’s a great write-up!

Party Food

Rusty Chef Cook-Off Round 3: Mexican-Inspired Eats

On Sunday March 11th, I, Chef Snake VK, competed with my buddy and former roommate, Katie (aka Chef KoHo) to see who could whip up the best Mexican-inspired three course meal. AND THEN WE FOUGHT TO THE DEATH.

OK we didn’t fight to the death. We couldn’t even look angry at each other in this photo. A little background: my boyfriend’s roomie, Chef Homeboyardee, challenged me to a cook-off late last year. We had a blast and the scores were close, but I ultimately won that round. He challenged me to a rematch. I won again. Chef KoHo, who was participating as a judge, challenged me to Round 3. We decided on a cuisine that neither of us knew much about but liked to eat: Mexican. The event went down at my place. We had seven guests/judges armed with bottles of wine and a huge appetite.

Chef Snake VK’s Entries (me)

Bacon-wrapped jalapeños stuffed with cheddar, cream cheese, and scallions. Clearly not authentic but hey, we said Mexican-inspired, right? Get the awesome recipe here.

Slow-cooked Chili El Pastor–a recipe I got from Food52. The first time I bought a whole pineapple…fun!

I found this recipe for Caballeros Ricos while Googling Mexican desserts. Described as a bread pudding souffle, I found it more to be a baked French toast kinda dish. But dang, that almonds and cinnamon syrup was delicious.

Chef KoHo’s Entries (the competition)

Chef KoHo’s approach was to cook a mexican-inspired dinner using ingredients many people can find in the bodega or supermarket. And to cook it quickly, in case somebody has work.

Elote w/ spicy lime mayo, crumbled white cheese and chili powder

Beer & chocolate braised pulled pork tacos w/radish & lettuce slaw.

Chili chocolate pudding with cinnamon whipped topping.

The wine was flowing…

…and the judges judged…

…but finally, I WON. Barely. (Chef KoHo reminded me to emphasize the word “barely”.) But hey, a victory is a victory! But clearly, the true winners were the guests who got to eat two three-course meals without lifting a finger :) All in all, a fantastic, delicious night.