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Today's Recipe
Tuesday, 2007 November 20 - 7:03 pm
Three Cheese Macaroni and Cheese, with Bacon and Shiitake Mushrooms

There are certain rules for company Thanksgiving potluck events.

First: don't stop at the Food Lion (or Kroger, or Super Wal-Mart, or Meijer's Thrifty Acres) on the morning of the event and pick up store-made pumpkin pie. We usually end up with five or six of those, and we only open one.

Second: don't make a dish that can't be split easily among thirty people... like, say, a chicken dish that has eight whole chicken breasts. If you do that, it makes for a moral quandary for everyone: should I be a pig and eat one of them, or should I risk offending the cook by passing them by?

Third: before you bring a green bean casserole, see how many other people are bringing a green bean casserole. We end up with a surplus of this stuff too.

Fourth: don't be something that can't be cut with plastic utensils... like whole chicken breasts. Yeah, I kind of have a hangup about the whole chicken breast thing... someone brought them a couple of years ago, and it made me angry. ANGRY!

Fifth: don't be too exotic. At a company potluck, "exotic" gets you a lot of wrinkled noses, and you'll be bringing home 80% of your dish.

I have the most trouble with that last rule. Last year I made blue cheese macaroni and cheese, which went over like a lead balloon.

This year? I made mac & cheese again, but this time, I didn't use blue cheese, and I added bacon. Actually, that might be the most important rule of all: if you want to be popular, make a dish that involves bacon. I did go a little bit exotic, using three different deli cheeses and shiitake mushrooms, but I think the bacon was enough to fool the co-workers.

Here's my recipe. The quantities might not be exact; I was kind of winging it as I went. Updated November 22, 2013.

Ken's Three Cheese Mac & Cheese with Bacon and Shiitake Mushrooms

Preparation time: about 45 minutes. Makes about 10 generous servings.

1 pound of elbow macaroni
2 cups (16 fl oz) chicken broth
2 cups 1 cup water
6 slices 1/2 pound of sliced bacon
1/2 cup green onions, finely chopped
1/2 cup white onion, finely chopped
1 cup shiitake mushroom, finely chopped
10 oz 8 oz sharp cheddar cheese
10 oz 8 oz gruyere cheese
10 oz 8 oz fontina cheese
4 tablespoons of butter (half a stick)
1/3 cup 2 cups milk or half-and-half
20 grams of sodium citrate
Black Pepper

Fry the bacon in a large saucepan until crisp. Remove the bacon to a paper-towel-lined plate, but do not discard the bacon fat in the pan. Chop the bacon into small pieces.

Sautee the green onions, white onions, and mushrooms in the bacon fat, with a little bit of salt, for just about a minute, or until the onions start to turn barely translucent. Remove the onions and mushrooms onto another paper-towel-lined plate to get rid of any excess bacon fat.

In a large pot, combine the butter and milk; place over medium-low heat until the butter is melted. Add the sodium citrate to the mixture and whisk until thoroughly dissolved. The sodium citrate is an anti-coagulant and will prevent the cheese from clumping up and separating. You can find it in specialty stores, or on Be sure it's sodium citrate and not citric acid that you're getting.

Cut all the cheese into small chunks (or grate it no need to spend time grating it; it will melt readily enough), then add it to the butter and milk mixture. Cook until the cheese is melted, stirring constantly. (You can turn the heat up to make it go faster, but if it's too high, the cheese will burn, so look out!) It's all right if the consistency isn't completely smooth, just so long as all the cheese is completely melted. The sodium citrate will help make the mixture silky-smooth. Science!

Meanwhile, in a two-quart pot, combine the water and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add the macaroni and a couple of dashes of salt, cover, and reduce heat to medium low. If you don't have enough liquid to cover the macaroni, add a little more water. What you want is just enough liquid to cook the macaroni, and not so much you have to drain a bunch off... the idea is for all the chicken broth to be absorbed into the pasta. Cook the macaroni to al dente (tender but firm), stirring periodically; avoid overcooking, as the macaroni can turn into a big sticky mass. (You can add a couple of teaspoons of vegetable oil to the water to help avoid this problem.)

Drain off any excess liquid from the macaroni, then put the macaroni in a large crock pot. (If you don't have a crock pot, you can use a casserole dish with a cover.) Add the cheese, bacon, onions, and mushrooms, and stir thoroughly. Add salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste; you'll probably want at least a couple of teaspoons of salt, and maybe a teaspoon each of black pepper and nutmeg. Cover and keep warm in the crock pot (or in an oven in low heat) until ready to serve.


If you like, sprinkle some bread crumbs and parmesan cheese on top and place under a broiler for a minute, to make a nice crusty top.

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Posted by Ken in: food


Comment #1 from Lisa V (Guest)
2007 Nov 20 - 9:19 pm : #
I want the blue cheese one.
Comment #2 from Crouching Hamster (Guest)
2007 Nov 20 - 11:04 pm : #
Wow! Omit the onions and I'm there!

I violated all most all of your rules for a Christmas potluck one year. I stopped at Whole Foods on my way into work and picked up some spicy tofu salad. After lunch, a paralegal took me aside and whispered, "Next tom I'm gone *tell you* what to brang."

Comments are closed for this post.

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