Thursday, September 12, 2013

Macaroni and Cheese: Apple Lover's Style

Comfort food. Apples. Cheese. Pasta. Hard cider.  All things I love and all that scream fall.  Now would you necessarily think of combining all of these ingredients?  Maybe not at first.  But what if I were to tell you that this hard cider mac and cheese is life changing?  Chalk full of onions, apple chunks, tons of cheese and pasta.  Would you be intrigued?
For you skeptics out there, you're not alone.  Spencer had to give me a double take when I first mentioned wanting to place this recipe on the meal plan.  I guess more than anything it was the apples in the mac and cheese that really threw him for a loop.  But after he thought about it for a minute, he looked at me and said "sounds interesting, but apples and cheese go together so this sounds like it will work too"!  So with that, I officially added it to our menu and couldn't wait to actually make the dish.

Now it's no secret that I love macaroni and cheese, there's just something magical about the stuff.  The apple doesn't fall far from the tree either, my little man is a mac and cheese connoisseur and would probably eat it for lunch and supper 7 days a week.  He's an addict.  But this folks, is not your ordinary mac and cheese.  This is a recipe that's chalk full of sharp white cheddar, chunks of apples and hard cider.  Yes, hard cider!  Now this is some serious mac and cheese! 
This macaroni and cheese takes, what I consider, the ultimate comfort food and amps it up...oh, about a thousand notches.  You've got your super sharp white cheddar that's not only in the cheese sauce but generously covering the top of the dish.  Then you've got your tart tidbits of apples that are dispersed throughout the dish.  The sauce is creamy and cheese with a slight tang from the cheese, and it's quickly offset by the tart sweetness of the apples.  This is a dish that not only works, it's the ultimate sweet/savory combo.  These flavors scream fall and take comfort food to a whole new level.  The next time you put macaroni and cheese on your menu, make sure you use this recipe.  Perfect for fall and a little change-up to the traditional mac and cheese that you love.
Macaroni and Cheese: Apple Lover's Style

1 (16oz) box of small cut pasta
1 Cup Hard Cider (I've used Angry Orchard and Woodchuck)
1 Cup heavy cream
4 Tbsp butter, divided
3 Tbsp flour, whole wheat or all-purpose
2 Granny Smith apples; peeled, cored and diced
1 White onion, diced
20-24 Oz Cabot sharp white cheddar


Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Salt water liberally, add pasta and cook according to package directions.

Place a large sauce pan over medium-low heat and 3 tablespoons of butter.  Once the butter has melted add the diced onions and apples and saute until onions become translucent, about 5-10 minutes.  While stirring continuously, add the flour and continue stirring until apples and onions are well coated.  Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and stir until melted.  While continuously whisking, slowly pour the cider and cream into the apple mixture.  Once incorporated, increase heat slightly and allow the mixture to come to a boil. 

Add 15 ounces of the shredded cheese and stir until melted and the mixture is smooth.

Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta that has been cooked and strained and stir to coat the pasta.  Rub the bottom of a large baking dish (or two small) with butter.  Add the pasta to the prepared dish.  Top with 5-6 ounces of cheese.

Place in preheated oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes, until cheese is melted and slightly browned and sides are bubbly.

Recipe source: adapted from Bakeaholic Mama


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