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Hugh's Southern Mac and Cheese

Photo: Iain Bagwell; Styling: Annette Joseph
Hands-on time 45 mins
Total time 1 hr, 35 mins
Yield Makes 4 to 6 servings
Hugh Acheson's Southern Mac and Cheese combines 2-year-old aged Cheddar cheese with Gruyere cheese, diced bacon, and  leeks. The results are a deliciously baked Southern classic that's finished with a drizzle of heavy cream and toasted breadcrumbs.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 pound thick bacon slices, diced (about 4 slices)
  • 2 medium leeks, cut into 1/2-inch rounds (about 1 cup)
  • 1/3 (16-oz.) package uncooked cavatappi pasta
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk, warmed
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Pinch of ground red pepper
  • 1 cup (4 oz.) freshly grated 2-year-old aged Cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Gruyère cheese
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup toasted soft, fresh breadcrumbs

How to Make It

  1. Preheat oven to 375°. Cook bacon in a skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 6 to 8 minutes or until crisp; remove bacon, and drain on paper towels. Discard drippings.

  2. Cook leeks in 4-qt. boiling water in a large Dutch oven 5 minutes. Remove leeks with a slotted spoon, reserving boiling water in Dutch oven. Plunge leeks into ice water to stop the cooking process; drain.

  3. Add pasta to boiling water, and cook 10 minutes or until al dente. Drain.

  4. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, and whisk in flour until smooth; cook, whisking constantly, 2 minutes or until golden brown. Slowly whisk in milk, and cook, whisking constantly, 3 minutes or until thickened. Whisk in dry mustard, next 3 ingredients, and 1/2 cup Cheddar cheese, stirring until cheese is melted. Remove from heat. Season with salt to taste.

  5. Gently stir together pasta, cheese sauce, half each of cooked bacon and leeks, and egg yolk. Stir in Gruyère cheese and remaining 1/2 cup Cheddar cheese. Spoon pasta mixture into a buttered 8-inch cast-iron skillet, and sprinkle with remaining bacon and leeks. Drizzle with cream; sprinkle with breadcrumbs.

  6. Bake at 375° for 35 minutes or until golden and bubbly. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.