Dear SOS: I have found the best beer-baked mac 'n' cheese ever. It is served at the Rackhouse Pub in Denver. I tried to get it, but the owner said the cook is pretty protective with his recipes. So, if you have time, maybe you can work some of your magic on them.
Dear Tucker: Just when you thought mac 'n' cheese couldn't get any better, the Rackhouse Pub in Denver decides to add beer to this quintessential comfort food. And it's magical. The recipe combines no less than five -- yes, five -- kinds of cheese in a rich base lightened with a cup of amber ale and then bakes it all under a crust of panko crumbs and Parmesan cheese to rich, crisp, golden perfection.
Beer-baked mac 'n' cheese
Total time: 1 1/2 hours
Servings: 12 to 16
Note: Adapted from the Rackhouse Pub in Denver.
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup amber beer
2 cups half and half
1/2 pound Brie
16 ounces (2 packages) cream cheese
1 1/2 cups crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
2 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 (16-ounce) box penne pasta, cooked and drained
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup panko or bread crumbs
1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a medium, heavy-bottom pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour to form a light roux. Slowly whisk in the beer and half and half.
3. Add the Brie and cream cheese to the sauce, stirring until the cheeses are melted and incorporated. Stir in the Gorgonzola, cheddar and 1 cup Parmesan cheese.
4. Stir in the pasta, taste and adjust the seasonings as desired with salt and pepper (some of the cheese will be salty and the mixture may need only a little salt, if any).
5. Pour the mixture into a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Top the mixture by sprinkling over the remaining Parmesan cheese and panko crumbs. Place the dish in the oven and bake until the sauce is bubbly and the toppings are crisp and golden, about 1 hour.
6. Cool slightly before serving.
Each of 16 servings: 566 calories; 20 grams protein; 29 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 41 grams fat; 25 grams saturated fat; 123 mg. cholesterol; 2 grams sugar; 611 mg. sodium.
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