Homemade Macaroni and Cheese with Chicken-Apple Sausage and Bacon

I just saw a piece in the Huffington Post about the Easter Egg Roll at the White House.  Having a family lineage that weaves in and out of that geography, I’m charmed by the holiday traditions held in our nation’s capital.  But what I found most intriguing was not the awkward mascot-like Easter Bunny being aptly guided by his seeing-eye human but that the Obamas were in short sleeves.  Sleeveless actually for Michelle if I recall.  I was dumbfounded.  I was in disbelief, mesmerized photo after photo, sure there must be a heat lamp just outside of the camera’s frame for surely it could not be that warm anywhere in the U.S. right now.  Not a goosebump to be had on their spring-exposed flesh.
By stark contrast I’ve been maintaining my winter togs with no hint of warmth in sight.  I volunteer for a local school that is setting up a Garden-to-Table program.  My garden partner and I are in charge of some hoop houses that envelope delicate lettuce starters planted by wee tots, stars in their eyes about consuming them in the form of salad before the year’s end.  Last Friday we discussed the horribly windy weather, the proposed overnight temperature forecast of 31 degrees and I aptly convinced her all would be fine, we did not need to roll the plastic down to tuck our babies in the for the night.   

 

I sadly awoke at 7 a.m. Saturday to find snow.  Like the adrenaline rush that comes with oversleeping and waking just as your first morning work meeting is suppose to start, I bolted out of bed, threw on anything I could find to zoom to the school and save the tender lettuce.  I’d love to tell you it was exclusively my gardener’s heart that was the driver for my unbridled sprint, but sprinkled in there was the nightmare potential of 50 kids looking at me for explanation of why the Easter Bunny ate their lettuce over the weekend.
Fortunately everything turned out well for the lettuce however now with Easter treats behind us I have as much interest in spring food with our current weather as I do wearing hot pants and white vinyl Go Go boots while dancing on a busy street corner.  Instead I made homemade Mac and Cheese with a twist.
For whatever reason the idea of making macaroni and cheese from scratch never really crossed my mind until last year.  Perhaps it was being raised on the boxed stuff with day-glow orange cheese powder.  It struck me once when buying microwaveable Mac and Cheese (organic, gluten free, good tasting, microwaveable mind you) both that it was expensive and that the packaging is not recyclable (nothing  from the freezer section is recyclable due to being treated so it does not fall apart under the frozen conditions).  Thus was the birth of me making my own Macaroni and Cheese from scratch.
It is ridiculously simple and ripe with creative options. I made the basic recipe with a change to the cheese, adding some bacon and chicken apple sausage.  The texture is creamy and the flavors wonderfully cheesy, with some salt from the bacon and sweetness from the sausage; all this without being over the top fatty or rich.  A perfect one casserole meal which I served with fresh, local organic rainbow chard sautéed in a bit of garlic.  Yum.
MACARONI AND CHEESE with CHICKEN-APPLE SAUSAGE and BACON
Serves:  6-8 portions
Ingredients
·         1 package elbow pasta (I use Tinkyada Brown Rice Elbow pasta which is gluten free)
·         3 tablespoons unsalted butter
·         2 tablespoons flour (you can use gluten or gluten free flour)
·         2 cups milk
·         8 ounces mild cheddar cheese, cubed
·         3 slices bacon
·         12 ounce package  pre-cooked skinless chicken apple sausage (4 sausages)
·         Salt and pepper to taste
1.       Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a large casserole with butter and set aside.
2.      Boil water and prepare pasta to package instructions.
3.      In a skillet brown the bacon so it is slightly done but not crispy or hard.  Drain well on paper towels.  Cut off any large pieces of fat from ends and discard.  Chop the bacon into small pieces (about 1/8 inch square).  Set aside.
4.      Chop sausages into ¼ inch square pieces.  Set aside.  I wanted mine to be somewhat rustic, not perfect square pieces.
5.      While pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium to medium-high heat.  Whisk in the flour, as well as salt and pepper to taste (you can add more later as well).  Basically you are making a roux*.  When it is well combined, slowly pour in the milk whisking the whole time to avoid burning the mixture.  Continue to whisk until the mixture begins to thicken noticeably (5-10 minutes).
6.      Add cubed cheese to butter/flour/milk mixture.  Continue to stir until the cheese is fully melted.
7.      When pasta is cooked, rinse, drain well and return to the cooking pot.  Pour in the cheese sauce, chopped bacon and chopped sausage; stir well to fully combine.  Add more salt and pepper to taste if needed and place in the oven uncovered for 35-40 minutes or until the macaroni develops a nice, brown crust on the top.
8.      When done, remove from oven to cool slightly and serve.
*a roux (pronounced ‘roo’) is a mixture of flour and butter which is the base of many sauces and a thickener.
  I love this as there are so many variations.  Here are a few favorites:
·         Use extra sharp cheese and add a bit of Dijon mustard
·         Use sharp cheddar mixed with a little bit of Monterey Jack cheese and add chopped Anaheim chilies (canned or fresh if available)
·         Experiment with cheese blends.  Gruyere cheese is very good in this dish.

Comments

  1. says

    Delicious these macaronis! I must do this recipe, the only problem is that we don´t have those delicious chicken and apple sausages in Madrid…
    Thanks for sharing

  2. says

    Gorgeous pictures! But chicken apple sausage? That is new to me … is it literally that? … with apple pieces in it? How awesome!

  3. says

    Dancing on a corner with hot pants and white go-go boots? LOL. I'll probably think of that every time I see you. I have to admit, that boxed stuff is really really good, but bears no resemblence to home made. I love this recipe, sounds mouth watering. Snow this morning in Highlands Ranch….humph.

  4. says

    Yes- we're still having soup for dinner here! I love your mac&cheese- Arianwen has been hounding me for homemade mac because I refuse to buy the box. She would love this- and I might add broccoli too..If I have all the ingredients on hand, I may have to make this instead of soup tonight. Glad the school kids' lettuce managed to escape unscathed! I remember one year in Colorado we got 3 feet of snow on May 7th or 8th- this was in the 70's.. power outages everywhere because the sap was running… winter will eventually go away- and I will be jumping for joy! Have a great week and stay warm!

  5. says

    I remember those spring days in colorado, with winter hanging on to the last. A foot of snow one day, seventy the next! I am in love with your mac n cheese, I love the use of chicken sausage!

  6. says

    This looks delicious! Thanks for sharing. We have a wonderful local sausage maker that will soon be arriving at the local farmer's market! Cheers!

  7. says

    Mmm, adding bacon into mac and cheese is one of my favorite things. Come to think of it, mac and cheese is one of my favorite things! Thanks for posting, this looks WONDERFUL.

  8. says

    This sounds great. I am a big fan of chicken apple sausage, but the bf has a hard time with it. I think if it use it in your delicious macaroni he won't even be able to tell it's not normal sausage! I can't wait to try it. :)

  9. Quay Po Cooks says

    I don't think I have seen any chicken and apple sausage before but this sounds like a delicious combo.

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