I have been so excited all day to make this dinner. Seriously. This is part of why cooking is my “personal culinary therapy” – if I’m having a bad day, or long day, or stressful day, or even just a normal day, at work, all I have to do is daydream about what I am making for dinner that night, and I instantly feel better. It sounds really silly, I know. Don’t get me wrong – it also cheers me up to think about seeing my husband and ok, petting my dog too, but there is just something about food. Thankfully my husband loves that I cook, so it works out well in his favour, too. So, back to tonight’s dinner. I bought a bottle of truffle oil from the Chelsea Market in Manhattan a few weeks back, and have been dying to use it. I have heard such great things about it, as I’ve seen some mac’n’cheese and soup recipes using it, and my friend Alysha said that her and her husband drizzle it on popcorn, too! In any case, I decided on this recipe from Gimme Some Oven, Bacon and Truffle Oil Macaroni and Cheese.
You can read the basics about truffle oil here, and you can read a nasty rant about truffle oil here. Similarly, you can read about what truffles actually are, here (long story short: an underground fungus known as a tuber that most closely resembles a strangely-shaped potato). Basically, most truffle oil is not made from actual truffles, rather it is a synthetic product made from the main ingredient of truffles, mixed with olive oil. Apparently the craze of it is dying out (which I had no idea – since I just started reading about it in recipes less than a year ago), because it’s a culinary joke. The thing that saddens me is the snobbery of it all (specifically the rant I linked to, above). Yes, there are foodies and food snobs, but when it comes down to it – food is meant to be enjoyed. It is meant to be savoured. It is meant to share with friends and family. If all you can think about is that it’s just a cheap knock off, then you’re doing it wrong.
And let me tell you, friends, this dinner was amazing. My husband, our roommate, and I might have eaten our weight in elbow macaroni tonight. Ok ok, we didn’t, but you get the idea. It was SO GOOD. First of all, I can’t remember the last time I had real bacon. Normally I buy turkey bacon to make for our weekend breakfasts. I have to say, though, cooking bacon is kind of gross. It is so fatty. I can’t lie – I cut off some of the fat. There was just so much of it, and I was getting queasy thinking about eating all of it (lovely image, I know). To make it less oily, I used cooking spray instead of oil. However, I did discover tonight, as I was calculating the Weight Watchers points of my meal, that one slice of real bacon is the same amount of points as one slice of turkey bacon. Gasp. For those that are curious, one slice equals one point.
Additionally, I normally buy pre-shredded cheese, because it’s basically the same price as block cheese and much less work, but the recipe specified not buying pre-shredded cheese. I’m not sure if it would have made a difference, obviously I’d have to re-do this recipe with pre-shredded cheese to find out, but when in doubt, follow the recipe. And yes, I took a picture of my husband grating the cheese…and no, that’s not his real smile, he cheesed it up for the camera (no pun intended…well…ok, pun intended).
That being said, I did not follow the recipe regarding the amount of truffle oil to use. The recipe specified using 3 tablespoons, however I received advice from friends that just a few drops is plenty, but also I was a bit scared by the negative article linked above. Also, once the bottle was opened (thanks to my roommate…the packaging was on there so tightly), we realized just how potent it is (I probably shouldn’t have been shocked, but I was). Therefore, I only used one tablespoon, because it’s always better to use too little than too much, as you can always add more. I taste-tested a piece of macaroni and I could already taste the booming truffle oil, and called it good. I honestly don’t know how to describe the taste of it. It’s like nothing I’ve ever had before. The way our roommate described it kind of summed it up, that you could tell there was something in addition to the normal macaroni and cheese-y flavours.
One final note, this is a lot of work. It is a quick recipe, which might be why it’s so much work. I chopped the garlic and onion ahead of time (and of course forgot to grate the cheese, which is why I hurriedly begged my husband to), but everything needs to be poured immediately, stirred constantly, etc. My kitchen might have been a mess when all was said and done. Typically, I try to clean as I go, but mid-cooking I decided to not even bother anymore. Also, I had a small panicky moment when I realized that the original recipe says to cook the onion and garlic, take off heat, and set aside…then it is never mentioned again! I just added it right after taking the pasta off the heat, stirred, then proceeded to add the cheese. You can do it however you see fit.
WW point value per serving: 10 (but I may or may not have had slightly more than one serving…)
Bacon and Truffle Oil Macaroni and Cheese
-8oz whole wheat elbow macaroni, cooked al dente according to package directions (I actually used the whole box, which fed 3 of us, plus a few tupperware containers of leftovers)
-8 strips bacon
-1/2cu chopped white onion
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-1 (12oz) can 2% evaporated milk
-1 large egg
-1/4tsp ground black pepper
-1/2tsp smoked paprika
-pinch of cayenne
-8oz freshly-grated sharp or smoked white cheddar cheese (do not buy pre-shredded cheese)
-1/4cu freshly-grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish
-1tbsp truffle oil (again, the original recipe called for 3tbsp, but one was perfectly potent…if you use 3, please proceed with caution)
-While the pasta water is heating in a large stockpot, cook the bacon in a large skillet over high heat until crispy. Remove bacon and set aside, reserving the bacon grease. Once cooled, crumble the bacon and set aside.
-Return 1 tablespoon bacon grease to the skillet, and lower heat to medium-high. Add onion and cook for 5 minutes, or until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 1 minute until fragrant. Remove from heat.
-In a separate bowl, whisk together the evaporated milk, egg, salt, pepper, smoked paprika and cayenne until combined.
-Once the pasta is ready and has been drained, immediately stir in the evaporated milk mixture until combined. Continue cooking over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally (I’d say more than occasionally, I left it un-stirred for almost 2mins and then had to scrape the bottom of the pot with my spatula – thankfully it didn’t adversely affect the final product), for about 5-8 minutes, or until the sauce comes to a simmer.
-Remove pan from heat and stir in the onion and garlic mixture, then grated cheddar and Parmesan until melted. Then gently stir in the truffle oil and half of the crumbled bacon.
-Serve immediately, topped with the remaining crumbled bacon and additional Parmesan.