On my way back from visiting Sunshine in Sarasota, I was stuck with a 2.5hr layover in the gigantic Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson airport. I figured with 5 terminals, there had to be some decent food to discover. I did a quick poke around the internet and came across Food & Wine’s Ultimate Airport Survival Guide. Since I was below the Mason-Dixon, their suggestion of Paschal’s classic Southern fare seemed like the perfect choice. And why have I never heard of Bruce’s Green Hot Pepper Sauce before?!?
At Paschal’s, I threw down on some fried chicken, mac-n-cheese, collards greens, + cornbread.
After I savored my last bite, I checked my Twitter to see that Taylor from Mac & Cheese shot me a strong recommendation to try One Flew South, the other suggestion on the F&W guide. Then there was Taylor’s follow-up: Do not miss anything “Benton’s” on the menu – bacon or ham – if you do pork. Oh, I do pork and I def have to do pork recommended by someone who’s been a vegetarian for over 20 years. I hopped on the tram and headed to Terminal E – proud in my Phillies shirt on a quest for bacon.
Sweet jesus… a beautiful, fine dining restaurant serving sushi and southern fusion… in an airport. While I waited for my Benton’s selection to arrive, I sipped on a serious, perfectly-made Vesper. Thank you, bartender who’s name I forget who has a dad who lives in Philly!
And then my glorious plate arrived… crisp frisee tossed w. a pink peppercorn vinaigrette flanked by Benton’s bacon + Sweet Grass Dairy goat cheese topped w. basil poached pears. It was so fresh with truly beautiful flavor combinations and damn near the best bacon I’ve ever had.
Did I mention I was in an airport?
Dre’s main request for Friday’s dinner was Mac & Cheese WITH BACON to accompany my Roasted Tomato, Mushroom, & Smoked Mozz Stuffed Chicken Breasts. On a shopping trip last week, I picked up the most adorable red casserole dish and this was the perfect opportunity to christen it. I needed to refresh myself on Mac & Cheese basics and Alton Brown seemed like my go-to man. I forgot how easily you can turn a basic rue, some milk, onion, & cheese (and bacon, of course) into the most comforting of foods. Mmmm, Mac & Cheese!
Shredded Mozz, Cheddar, Smoked Gouda, & Velveeta
I put Dre in charge of finishing up the Mac & Cheese. He crumbled bacon and tossed it into the macaroni & melty cheese mixture. The jumbo macaroni were perfectly filled up with the bacon & gooey cheesiness. He gets half the credit on this cooking venture for that move!
Smokey Bacon Mac & Cheese
No Baked Mac & Cheese is complete without a crunchy crust and why not have it add to the cheesiness! Dre crushed up some Cheez-Its, tossed with melted butter, and sprinkled on top. It added a crunchy texture to the creamiest, yummiest Mac & Cheese I’ve ever tasted, if I do say so myself! And how cute is that casserole dish?!
Smokey Bacon Mac & Cheese w/ a Cheez-It crust
Smokey Bacon Mac & Cheese
adapted from Alton Brown’s Macaroni & Cheese Recipe
- Macaroni – (1) lb, cooked al dente
- Farfalle, Orchiette, Spirals & Shells all work well, too
- Butter – (3) T + (2) T
- Flour – (3) T
- Milk – (3) cups
- Whole Grain Mustard – (1) T
- Paprika – (2) tsp
- Bay Leaf – (1)
- White Onion – (1/2) med onion, chopped
- Shredded Cheeses – (4) cups or more
- I used (2) cups Mild Cheddar, (2) cups Mozzarella, & (1) cup of Smoked Gouda
- Velveeta – (8) oz, cubed
- Smoked Bacon – (4-5) slices, cooked & chopped (optional, I guess…)
- Cheez-Its – (1.5) cups, crushed
- Cook macaroni until al dente. Drain and set aside.
- Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
- Melt (3) T of butter in a heavy pot on Med and add flour. Stir for about 5 min until it turns a light caramel brown, watching closely.
- Add Milk, Mustard, Paprika, Bay Leaf, Onion, & S&P and stir. Bring to a simmer on Med for about 5 min. Remove Bay Leaf.
- Immediately add the cheese mixture to the pasta in a large bowl or your stock pot and coat. The bacon crumbles can go in now, too.
- Pour mixture into a large, greased baking dish or casserole.
- Crush (1.5) cups of Cheez-Its in a sealed plastic baggie and then toss with (2) T melted Butter in a bowl. Sprinkle over Mac & Cheese.
- Bake for about 30-40 min until bubbling. Remove and let it sit for (5) min before eating.