smoky pear mac & cheese
INGREDIENTS
  • Cooking Time: 45
  • Servings: 6-8
  • Preparation Time: 25
  • 1/4# elbows
  • 1/4# rotini
  • 6Tbs butter
  • 3Tbs AP flour
  • 1Tb powdered mustard
  • 3c milk
  • 1 gala apple, peeled & diced
  • 1 Bosc pear, peeled & sliced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2tsp paprika
  • 1 large egg
  • 8 oz sharp cheddar
  • 4 oz smoked gouda
  • 1tsp salt
  • black pepper
  • 1c Panko breadcrumbs
DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F
  2. cook pasta to a 'pre-al dente.'
  3. (a little too tough to eat that way is good; it'll soften up in the oven)
  4. In a separate pot, melt 3T butter, whisk in flour and mustard powder, mix until free of lumps.
  5. Stir in milk, paprika, and bay leaf. Simmer for 10 min, then remove leaf.
  6. lightly beat the egg and add a couple of spoonfuls of the hot milk mixture to temper it.
  7. Stir in 3/4 of the cheese and the diced apple, salt & pepper.
  8. Fold in the pasta and transfer to a 2qt casserole dish, alternating layers of sliced pear.
  9. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top.
  10. Melt other 3T butter in saucepan and toss in bread crumbs until coated.
  11. Top mac & cheese with breadcrumbs.
  12. Cover and bake for 30 mins, removing lid for last 5 minutes or so.
  13. Let stand out of oven 5-10 mins to set before serving.
RECIPE BACKSTORY
I tried Alton Brown's mac & cheese from Good Eats. It called for onion, of which I am not a fan, but I wanted something with a similar mouth feel to break up the monotony of mac & cheese. I remembered the little kid science experiment where you blindfold a person and have them hold their nose while you feed them a slice of apple and a slice of onion (demonstrating that smell is essential to taste). My first modification had a layer of sliced apple, as well. I remembered being served a fruit and cheese plate that had cheddar and gouda and apple and pear... I think the sliced pear in addition to the diced apple works very well. I changed up the pasta types just for fun; you could use 1/2# of either or.