This is the start of Irish Food Week at our house, an annual event leading up to St. Patrick's Day !
There is a special place in my heart for Irish cheddar cheese, there is nothing like it. On my first trip to Ireland, one of the things I wanted to do was visit a typical grocery store (because I love grocery stores, anywhere, anytime). We were in Dingle, which is the music capital of Ireland, but there is not much else there. The only store was very small, but it had a tiny "deli", where you could buy freshly made sandwiches, cheeses, meats and bread. I chose the hard, Irish brown bread, some cheddar cheese and a piece of something that looked like canadian bacon. I bought a small jar of Coleman's mustard, and set about making myself a little sandwich. Then, I fell in love with Irish Cheddar...
I found it on sale at the store last week (no doubt in preparation for the upcoming holiday), so it seemed logical to include it in my first dish. Mac and cheese is always a good comfort food, and with the addition of the bacon, this was a nice meal to come home to on a slightly snowy spring day.
Irish Cheddar Mac and Cheese with Bacon
3 cups elbow macaroni
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups milk
8 ounces Irish cheddar cheese, shredded
2 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Pinch of nutmeg
Start a pot of water to boil for macaroni. In a sauce pan, melt butter, then add flour to form a roux. Add milk and whisk until smooth. Simmer sauce until it starts to thicken, then add all but 1/2 cup of the Irish cheddar, reserve the remainder for topping. Stir until sauce is smooth. Stir in bacon. When water comes to a boil, add macaroni and cook 8-10 minutes until just al dente. Drain water, and stir macaroni into cheese sauce. Place entire mixture into a casserole dish, and top with remaining cheeses. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, until cheese on top is golden. Let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.