Just the other night, around 12:38 am, my Big Bunso approached me and said, “I am hungry.”
His two older brothers and father were at Baler for a vacation so we don’t have much cooked food at home. We only had a homemade cheeseburger for dinner and nothing was left for a possible midnight snack. My son checked our pantry and saw some sausages and microwave-ready Mac and Cheese. We cooked them and had one of our fun mother and son bonding moments.
Which reminds me. Chef Curtis Stone, head judge on LIFETIME’s sizzling new show Top Chef Jr., is dishing out recipes that both parents and kids can try together. Plus they are surely healthier with less processed food, very unlike the sausages and Mac and Cheese we had.
Top Chef Jr.’s Chef Curtis and his Mac and Cheese
Now, how do you make the world’s best mac and cheese? For Chef Curtis, it is the combination of Cheddar and Gruyere cheese put over the top. His mac and cheese isn’t baked, though. He relayed that he often make the sauce and cook the mac and cheese in the same skillet to save on cleanup. And when he serves this to a company, he just divides it among individual casseroles before broiling.
Allow us to share Chef Curtis’ Mac and Cheese with Gruyere, Cheddar, and Bacon. This indulgent, easy-to-make casserole will surely leave everyone asking for seconds—or thirds! I could imagine the smile of my boys. Each serving oozes with cheese and holds delightful morsels of flavorful bacon. Surely, they will have as much fun preparing as they will savoring it.
Mac and Cheese Ingredients
- 6 slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-wide strips
- ½ cup chopped shallots
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 ½ cups heavy cream, or as needed
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3 ½ cups whole milk, or as needed
- 1 ½ cups shredded Gruyère cheese (about 6 ounces)
- 1 ½ cups shredded white Cheddar cheese (about 6 ounces)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound penne
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus butter for the baking dish
- 2/3 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
- 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Mac and Cheese preparation
Preparation Time: 15mins
Cooking Time: 30mins
- Heat a large heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes, or until golden brown. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain, leaving the drippings in the saucepan. Add the shallots to the saucepan and cook, stirring often, for about 2 minutes, or until translucent. Add the garlic and sauté for about 1 minute, or until fragrant.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low, whisk in the flour, and cook, whisking, for about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the milk and cream, then bring the sauce to a gentle simmer over medium heat and simmer, whisking often, for about 10 minutes (do not allow the sauce to boil). Reduce the heat to medium-low and gradually whisk in the Gruyère and Cheddar cheeses. Remove the pan from the heat and season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper; it will seem thin at this point.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Stir in the penne and cook, stirring often to prevent it from sticking together, for about 8 minutes, or until tender but still firm to the bite. Drain well.
- Stir the penne into the hot cheese sauce. If the sauce becomes too thick, thin it as desired with more milk or cream. Stir in the reserved bacon. Season to taste again with salt and pepper.
- Position the broiler rack about 8 inches from the heat source and preheat the broiler. Butter a 3-quart baking dish or individual crocks. Spread the penne mixture in the baking dish.
- In a small bowl, toss the panko, Parmesan cheese, parsley, and melted butter to mix well. Season with salt and sprinkle evenly over the penne. Broil, while watching closely, for about 2 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown. Let it stand at room temperature for 5 minutes before serving.
Chef Curtis’ summer recipes for kids
Chef Curtis has still a lot of summer recipes for kids. We will share them with you in the next few days. But for more tiny chef inspiration, tune in to Top Chef Jr. on LIFETIME from Tuesdays to Thursdays at 8 PM. Watch some of the most talented young culinary masters from around the US prove that they’ve got what it takes to be the next generation of Top Chefs.
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