Growing up every St. Patrick’s Day was a day in our house usually celebrated with a big chunk of corned beef and cabbage that had been cooking all day. I could smell it once I started down the driveway walking home from school. I was home alone after school and it took everything in me to wait for dinner. When I moved out the tradition of corned beef and cabbage followed me to my new home Colby and I would pile our plates with beef, root vegetables, cabbage, and spicy mustard to dip everything in. Colby also grew up having corned beef every St. Patrick’s Day, but it was a bit more than that since his mom is mostly Irish. You’d think with Irish blood, and family traditions Colby and I’d kids would be just as excited about corned beef and cabbage as we were growing up. Well, you’d be wrong.
That’s right our kids just aren’t the biggest fans. They’re 12 now and they have grown a tolerance for corned beef, we have failed as parents. Now I wouldn’t call the boys picky eaters but I did have to hide a lot of they’re vegetables in mac and cheese for them to eat it. Why not also hide their Irish heritage in mac and cheese too? I got the inspiration for this recipe from a couple of Irish dishes like potato and leek soup, Irish beer cheese, and colcannon, which is similar to mashed potatoes with kale and lots of cream and butter. Add some noodles a touch of bacon, and boom, happy kids.
Find this recipe in the March 2020 Issue of Spokane CDA Living Magazine
- 1/2 thick sliced Bacon
- 1 medium Leek, thinly sliced
- 1/2 head small Cabbage, thinly sliced
- 2 Baking Potatoes
- 2 tablespoon Butter
- 1 tablespoon Bacon Fat
- 1/4 cup Flour
- 16oz Irish Beer, if a sip or two is missing it's ok
- 2 cups Milk
- 2 cups Irish Cheddar
- 1/2 teaspoon Nutmeg
- 1 pound Macaroni
- 1/2 cup Bread Crumbs
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Chives, thinly sliced
- In a big pot slowly bring salted water and potatoes to a boil and cook until fork-tender and set potatoes aside to cool. Boil the noodles in the same pot once the potatoes are out, before draining the water keep about 2 cups and set aside. Drain and allow noodles to cool.
- Cut the bacon into small pieces, cook until brown and crisp in a medium-sized pot, set aside and save the rendered fat for later.
- In the pot, the bacon was cooked in add back a couple of teaspoons of bacon fat, the leeks, the cabbage, and half the beer (remember to scrape the brown bits off the bottom) place a lid on the pot and allow to braise until the tender, remove the lid and cook away any liquid that maybe there and remove from pot.
- Make a bechamel, in the pot, the cabbage came out of, add in butter and bacon fat and flour the roux should look like wet sand, cook for 5 minutes so the raw flour test is cooked out but not browned add the remaining beer and cook until the smell of beer has cooked away.
- While the roux is cooking in another pot warm (but don't boil) milk and nutmeg. Slowly add the milk a ladle at a time whisking into the roux until all the milk is added.
- Whisk 1/2 the cheese to the sauce until melted then add the cabbage mixture to the sauce.
- In a large bowl (or the pot you used to boil potatoes and noodles in) fold the cheese sauce into the noodles. If the sauce is too thick to cover the noodles thin it out with the reserved water.
- Place the macaroni and cheese into either buttered individual soup bowls or a casserole dish. Top the noodles with the bacon, then cheese, in a small bowl mix toss bread crumbs with either a couple of teaspoons of remaining bacon fat (or oil) then sprinkle on top of the cheese.
- Place the macaroni and cheese under the broiler until the cheese is melty and the bread crumbs are browned. Garnish with chives and serve.
You could make this ahead of time or freeze for later. To reheat instead of broiling bake the macaroni and cheese until the center is warmed, and the top is bubbly and browned.