Smoky Three Cheese Macaroni
This is not kids' macaroni and cheese. The mahogany-colored top says it all -- this is a smoky and flavorful side dish for grown-ups. The creative approach to smoking can be applied to almost any baked dish you desire… even on a gas grill.
- 1 pound dry Conchiglie pasta, cooked (you can use elbow macaroni, but I like the bigger Conchiglie)
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 3 cups whole milk
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 2 large eggs
- 16 ounces aged gouda cheese, shredded (I like a 9 month old Robusto for this recipe)
- 4 ounces Maytag blue cheese, crumbled
- 8 ounces medium-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
- 2 cups wood chips (I like apple for this recipe)
- You will also need two aluminum turkey roasting pans and a 3-quart earthenware or cast iron casserole dish
Prepare the grill for indirect grilling at 400°F.
Cook the pasta to al dente in salted water. Drain, rinse under cold water to stop cooking and drain again.
Baked macaroni and cheese uses a classic béchamel sauce as its base. For this recipe, we are omitting the bay leaf and garlic, but sticking pretty close to this tradition.
While the water for the pasta is coming to a boil, begin by making a light roux. Melt the butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. Add the flour and stir constantly with a whisk until the color is golden brown, about 5 minutes. At this point, the flour is cooked and the starchy flavor is gone.
Whisk in the milk and sour cream to thoroughly combine and simmer for 5 minutes.Beat the eggs in a small bowl (about the size of a cereal bowl). Temper the egg by adding a couple of ounces of the milk mixture to the egg bowl and stirring. Repeat several times to slowly raise the temperature of the eggs.
Add the tempered eggs to the milk mixture along with the gouda, blue cheese and 4 ounces of the cheddar. Stir until melted in.
Transfer the drained pasta to a 3-quart casserole dish. Pour in the cheese sauce. Top with the remaining cheddar cheese.
To create the smoking chamber, place one turkey roasting pan on the grill grate directly over the fire. Place the wood chips around the perimeter of the inside of the roaster. Close the hood and let this get started smoking for about 5 minutes. Place the casserole dish inside the aluminum roaster with the wood chips.
Place the second aluminum roasting pan upside down on top as a lid, trapping in the smoke. Close the grill hood and cook for 5 to 10 minutes with the contraption still in the direct grilling zone (making sure the wood chips only smoke and do not ignite). Move the smoking contraption to the indirect zone and continue cooking for a total cooking time of 30 to 40 minutes.
The top of the dish should be a deep brown color from the smoke, and the sauce should be bubbling when it is heated through. Remove the casserole dish from the roasting pans, cover tightly with foil, and wrap with towels until serving time. It should stay warm for at least 45 minutes.
Note: This smoking process will stain the outside of your casserole dish. Cast iron is your best bet, or you can use a disposable aluminum pan.