I recently saw a recipe for a Greek styled Mac and Cheese. It was filled with artichokes, spinach and some feta cheese. It basically sounded amazing! It got me thinking though, about all the different Mac and Cheese recipes out there. It's such a versatile dish that any combination can really make it an original.
The Greek version which had caught my eye got me thinking about a Canadian version, and when I couldn't find one online, I decided to do some research and make one for myself. I wanted to base it mostly on Canadian ingredients, and I believe that I was mostly successful. It was a bit of a sweeter tasting recipe (Just like us Canadians!) than the usual Mac and Cheese, but it definitely worked.
So the first ingredients that leapt to mind were of course beer, bacon, and maple syrup. Is there anything more Canadian than those ingredients? I think not!The one ingredient that I wasn't able to incorporate would have been some good ol' beer. Maybe next time though!
For the extremely important matter of finding some cheese, I went with Canadian Oka cheese. Oka Cheese originated in 1893 in Quebec, Canada at a monastery. It actually has several different flavours that come out as the cheese ripens. So depending on when you choose to eat it depends on the flavour of the cheese. Fascinating! I also wished that I could have added some cheese curds to the recipe (a la poutine) but alas, went without. Maybe next time!
The addition of allspice might also throw some people off, but I wanted to stick with the Canadian theme, so I chose this spice that is native to North America. Originally thought by European explorers to be a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, allspice is actually a dried fruit from Pimenta Dioica plant.
So as it turns out I also managed to learn a lot while making this recipe! Hurray for higher learning! I wonder what other sort of National Mac and Cheese recipes there are...? Denmark? Ethiopia? Thailand? Anyone want to take those as a challenge? Anyway! Here is my very own, Canadian Mac and Cheese. Maybe you should try to improve on that!
Canadian Mac and Cheese
Macaroni - about 2 cups
Onion - 1/2
Maple Syrup - 1 tbsp
Bacon - 4 slices, diced
Oka - 1 block
Allspice - 1 tbsp
Pepper - 1 tbsp
Salt - a healthy pinch
Place a pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook as package suggests.
At the same time, place the bacon in a frying pan and cook over medium heat with 1/2 tbsp of maple syrup. Remove and place on some paper towel, patting dry to remove the oil. Dice into small bite sized pieces. Drain the bacon grease from a pan and add the chopped onion and the other half of the maple syrup. Saute until the onions are soft.
In a large bowl, combine the cooked macaroni, chopped bacon and the onion. I liked to reserve some of the bacon for the top as well. Add the allspice, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Give it a stir to combine. Grease an 8x8 casserole dish with butter and add a third of the macaroni mixture. Add a handful of the grated oka cheese until well covered. Add the remaining layer of pasta, and cover with cheese again.
At this point, slowly add milk. Once you can barely see the milk through the pasta, stop. Sprinkle on some salt and pepper, then lace in the oven at 375F for about 45 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and crispy on top.