I am always searching for creative new ways to show how beans can be incorporated into a variety of meals. While preparing for a backyard grill-out this weekend, I decided to use Hurst beans in as many dishes as possible. Baked beans and a cold bean salad were obvious answers… but how about something a little more original: Mac ‘n beans!
2lbs. of cheese, crispy bacon, and some carmelized onions? Sounds like your Memorial Day BBQ just got a little more interesting.
One of the great things about using beans as a protein substitute in a dish is that you get all the “good” stuff (protein, fiber) without all the “bad” stuff (fat, cholesterol). Now with all this butter, cheese and bacon, I’m not going to pass this Mac n’ Beans off as healthy… but it has half the noodles as normal (less carbs), and the beans add much healthier protein than say, a 1lbs. of ground beef would, so that completely justifies it. Right?
What you need:
1-Package Hurst’s HamBeen’s® Great Northerns
1lbs. Grated Cheddar Cheese
1lbs. Grated Gruyere or Swiss Cheese
5- Cups Milk (at least 2%)
4-Cups Cooked Pasta (any kind)
1/2-1 Cup Shredded Onion
1/2-Cup All Purpose Flour
1/2- tsp. Cayenne Pepper
1lbs.- Center Cut Smoked Bacon
1. Alright, first things first… I HIGHLY recommend you immediately get that bacon cut into 1/4″ pieces and into the frying pan. Because a home that doesn’t smell of bacon, isn’t really a home at all.
2. Rinse the Northern beans with cold water for several minutes, removing any small debris or dirt that may be present.
3. In a large soup pot, cover the beans with at least 2″ of water and bring to a rolling boil. Cover the pot, reduce the heat and simmer the beans for 1.5-2 hours. Begin to check the tenderness of the beans at that point and remove when almost completely cooked through, but not falling apart.
4. Drain off the excess water and add 4-5 cups of the cooked beans along with the cooked pasta into a large baking dish. Fold to combine.
5. While the beans are cooking, begin the cheese sauce. The first step is to make a roux. In a large stock pot, melt the 6 tbsp. butter over medium heat. Once melted, whisk in the 1/2 cup of flour. A thick paste should form and begin to bubble slightly after a few minutes. Continue to whisk for at least 5-10 minutes until the mixture begins to become more golden in color.
6. When the roux is ready, begin to add in the milk one cup at a time while continually whisking the mixture. After several minutes, the sauce (considered a Béchamel at this point) will begin to thicken. It won’t reach it’s full thickness until the sauce heats to a boil. Continue to stir, and just as you see it begin to bubble remove from the heat and let cool for 2-3 minutes. (This will help prevent the cheese from separating in the next step, which can happen if added at too high of a temperature.)
7. Whisk in the cayenne pepper. Start adding the shredded cheese one handfull at a time. Once melted, continue with the next batch until all the cheese is added and you have a thick, creamy sauce.
8. Whisk in Hurst’s smokey Ham Flavor until fully incorporated into the sauce.
9. Preheat the oven to 375°. Pour the cheese sauce over the Mac n’ Bean’s and fold to incorporate sauce throughout the dish. Cover with foil and bake for 40-50 minutes (or until entire mixture is bubbling). Then remove the foil and turn the oven to broil. This will produce a delicious golden-brown top on the dish. Be sure to watch while broiling, as it is easy to burn at such intense heat.
10. While the the Mac n’ Beans is baking, use a small amount of the leftover bacon drippings (or 1 tbsp. butter) to cook the shredded onion over medium heat. After several minutes (at least 10), they will begin to caramelize and develop a delicious sweet flavor. Set aside for topping.
11. Allow the Mac n’ Beans to cool for several minutes before serving (helps to thicken the dish as well as prevent impulsive burnt-roof-of-the-mouth eating).
12. Top each serving with a generous potion of bacon and caramelized onion. This can be served as a standalone entrée or (like I will this weekend) as an incredible addition to a plate full of Smoked BBQ Pork.