I was so distraught over how to name this recipe, combining beer, cheese, caramelized onions, bacon. Beer Mac 'n' Cheese... Mac 'n' Beer Cheese ... Mac 'n' Cheese with Beer 'n' Bacon, Beer-Cheezy Mac (yeah, with a z)... so that's the ever-so (not) creative title I have. Beer, bacon, cheese, caramelized onion, awesomeness... can you dig it?
This recipe is a great example of accidental ingenuity. I often start out with one idea in my head that turns into something completely else once I start cooking (and realize I don't have half the ingredients I need in the house), or I will have no idea what I want to make and just start looking for food that needs to be used up in the kitchen. I was going to make mac 'n' cheese... but then that ever so important ingredient just happened to be missing, MILK. So beer and flour it was. It's days like these I wonder if I could be on top chef or chopped one day... and then I come back to reality (and realize I took an hour to make everything and the timer would've run out light-years ago... not to mention I'm not the first person to ever make this food).
A natural pairing for this recipe is whatever beer you cooked with. I used a run-of-the-mill light beer because it's what I had on hand, but lager would probably be best to cook and drink. But if you must pop the cork, opt for a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.
What you need:
1 (13.25 oz) box whole wheat penne rigate
1 medium vidalia onion, sliced cross-wise
12 fl. oz beer
1-1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup flour
6 oz neufchatel cheese, softened
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 tsp ground (dry) mustard
2 tbsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup crumbled bacon
1/3 cup panko
2 tbsp dried parsley
Salt & pepper
1/4 cup butter
What you do:
1. Cook penne rigate according to package directions to achieve al dente tenderness (adding a dash of salt before boiling water). Drain and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, prepare vidalia onion (make sure to separate rings). Melt butter in medium-sized skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, very soft, tender, and sweet
Tip: I did this over the course of 30 minutes while I cooked the rest of the meal, checking in on onions and stirring every few minutes
3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Pour in beer and bring to boil, then reduce to simmer.
4. Mix together flour and chicken broth in separate container and then add to beer. Bring to boil, whisking constantly, until flour is absorbed and mixture begins to thicken, then reduce to simmer.
5. Cut softened neufchatel cheese into small chunks and add to saucepan. Whisk until melted and combined with other ingredients.
6. Add dijon, dry mustard, worcestershire sauce, freshly ground black pepper (to taste) and shredded cheddar. Whisk to combine. Reduce heat to lowest setting and add caramelized onion.
7. Place pasta in large casserole dish and pour cheese sauce over. Sprinkle crumbled bacon, panko, and parsley evenly on top. Bake uncovered for 12-14 minutes.