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Mac & Cheese – Smoked & Baked

Today we present to you the ultimate comfort food that always delivers. Macaroni and cheese has enjoyed a huge following in the states as far back as Thomas Jefferson, and today the dish is so important to fans in Atlanta that the city hosts its very own yearly Mac and Cheese festival! The dish has its variations, but essential ingredients include pasta, cheese, and a bit more cheese for good measure. Easy to make Mac and Cheese stands alone as the quintessential football side dish. At home, cooked on the Memphis Pellet Grill, this meal with all its rich, gooey goodness serves beautifully in a bowl. All you need is a big spoon.
Preparation
1. Mix together the salt and water in a large pot and bring the liquid to a rolling boil. Add the elbow macaroni and keep an eye on the pot while it returns to the boiling point. Adjust the heat under the pot so the liquid continues to boil gently but not so rapidly it foams over the top of the pot. Cook the pasta until it reaches the al dente stage (about 8-10 minutes). Drain and set aside.

2. To make the crunchy topping, mix together the melted butter, panko bread crumbs and garlic granules. Add ½ C of the parmesan cheese reserving the rest for later use. Set the topping aside.

3. Now for the fun – there’s two ways you can go when cooking the mac and cheese on the Memphis. If you have time try smoking for two hours at a lower setting (225 F) or simply pre-heat the Memphis to 350 F and bake for 35 – 40 minutes. While the Memphis is pre-heating make the sauce and assemble the mac and cheese.

4. Melt the butter in a medium size pot. Add the pepper and mustard powder. Whisk in the flour to make a roux. Cook the roux over medium high heat, whisking constantly for 2 minutes. Slowly add the milk and cream in a steady stream while continuing the whisking motion to prevent lumps from forming. Continue to stir until the mixture thickens into a sauce.

5. Add the reserved parmesan and cheddar cheeses, stirring while they melt into the sauce. Remove from the heat.

6. Pour the cheese sauce over the drained noodles and toss to make sure each noodle gets coated evenly.

7. Spoon the noodle/sauce mixture into a medium sized cast iron frying pan that has been lightly coated with oil. Sprinkle the topping evening over the surface of the noodles and place the frying pan in the middle of the lower rack inside the pre-heated Memphis. The cheese sauce will be bubbly and the topping will turn a nice golden brown when the mac and cheese is done.

Ingredients
2 tsp kosher salt flakes
5 quarts of water
1 lb dried elbow macaroni noodles
3 Tbsp butter, melted
2 C panko bread crumbs
1 tsp garlic granules
1 C parmesan cheese, finely grated
½ C butter
6 Tbsp unbleached white flour
½ tsp pepper
2 tsp mustard powder
4 C milk
¾ C heavy cream
6 C white & yellow shredded cheddar cheese, old or extra-old
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