I'm P.C., and I have studied food and cooking around the world, mostly by eating, but also through serious study. Coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France have broadened my culinary skill and palate. But my kitchen of choice is at home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas.

I live, mostly in my kitchen, in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Amber Ale Mac and Cheese

Amber Ale Mac and Cheese

I always get impatient for Fall.  It is slow to come here and doesn’t last long.  We have teasing days of cool temperatures scattered around October, but those are few between the warm, summery ones.  So when I finally start to feel that little nip in the morning air, and the light fades earlier, I turn my mind to comforting autumn cooking.

Nothing is more comforting in fall than a cheesy pasta casserole and this one has some extra, hearty twists.  In the tradition of Oktoberfest, this year I offer a hearty classic jazzed up with the refined taste of rich amber ale. I love it on its own, or as a side for grilled bratwurst or smoked sausage.

Amber Ale Mac and Cheese

You could add diced, sautéed kielbasa or bratwurst to this, or some cooked bacon.

16 ounces pasta (fusilli, elbows, penne)

5 Tablespoons butter, divided

¼ cup flour

1 Tablespoon ground mustard powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon paprika

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

dash of cayenne

2 ½ cups whole milk

¾ cup amber ale (I used John Courage)

¼ cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

dash of hot sauce to taste

2 cloves garlic, minced

8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated

8 ounces gouda cheese, grated

3 slices rye bread

1 Tablespoon butter, melted

Cook the pasta in a large Dutch oven of salted water for 1 minute less than the package instructions.   Drain the pasta thoroughly in a colander then return it to the pot.  Add 1 Tablespoon of butter and toss until it melts and coats the pasta.  This will prevent sticking.  Return the pasta to the colander while you make the sauce.

Use a fork to mix the flour, mustard, paprika, nutmeg, cayenne, salt and pepper together in a small bowl until evenly distributed. Measure the milk, beer, cream, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce into a large measuring jug and mix.

Wipe out the Dutch oven.  Melt the remaining ¼ cup butter (4 Tablespoons) in the pot over medium heat, then add the garlic and sauté for about a minute until fragrant.  Add the flour mixture and stir until a smooth paste forms, then slowly add the milk mixture, stirring until the sauce is thick.  Whisk the cheeses in a handful at a time, stirring to melt each addition completely before adding the next.  When all the cheese is melted, stir in the cooked pasta.  Taste and add salt if desired, then scrape into a greased 3-quart baking dish.

At this point, you can cool cover and refrigerate the mac and cheese overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°. Tear the bread into chunks and place in a small food processor.  Pulse until you have fine breadcrumbs, then add the melted butter and pulse until combined.  Sprinkle over the mac and cheese.  Bake until the casserole is warmed through, bubbling at the edges and the breadcrumbs are crispy.

Serves 4 – 6

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