My #1 favorite food of all time is mac& cheese. Like if I was choosing my last meal, it would be mac & cheese. (Followed by risotto and cheesy garlic bread...notice the carb and cheese trend?) Nothing says comfort food to me like a bowl of creamy, cheesy goodness. My grandma makes the most amazing homemade mac & cheese on the planet, and passed her recipe on to my mom, who in turned has passed it on to me. When I was first living on my own, boxes of mac &cheese were a regular staple in my kitchen. I would eat any kind of mac & cheese, from the generic box, the blue box, frozen tv dinners, homemade, all the way to fancy lobster macs.
A few years ago I heard about a trend of "item specific" restaurants that were opening. Instead of a varied menu, they would focus the majority, if not all, of their menu to variations of one item. A restaurant that specialized in cereal. Another in Peanut Butter Sandwiches. And another that was nothing but french fries with many different sauces for dipping. And then I heard about S'Mac. An entire restaurant that serves nothing but mac & cheese. That place sounded like Heaven.
Sadly, I have never been to NYC, and have never got to experience S'Mac. When my sister went to NYC a couple years ago to visit her friends, I couldn't convince her to bring it back with her on the plane (not sure it would pass security either...).
Is it bad that I want to go on food-centered vacations?
When I had to start eating gluten-free, I was sad to no longer eat much of the foods I love, but relieved that, with a few modifications, I could still make homemade mac & cheese.
In early 2011, a friend told me that a mac & cheese restaurant called Homeroom had just opened much closer to home. It was only about in hour away in Oakland, CA. Even better, they serve gluten-free versions of all their mac & cheese! Dave and I went and I was hooked. It's so adorable inside, decorated like an old school, complete with a card catalog file and a giant blackboard. The menu is based around varieties of mac & cheese as well as a few of your childhood favorites like buttered peas, homemade Oreos, and homemade root beer. We have been there several times and have always had amazing mac & cheese and great service every time we have visited.
Then, this year, I found out that I had to start eating dairy-free. Don't get me wrong. I love feeling better, and sacrifices are really worth it, but I miss cheese. And you can't have mac & cheese without the cheese. Yes, yes, I know there are dairy-free, gluten-free mac & cheeses out there. But have you tried them? Most of them are SO GROSS. Amy's makes one that's the best of any I have ever tried, but it's still nothing like the real stuff. I could try to make my own, but I'm not super happy with the taste or texture of dairy free cheeses.
As I've been experimenting with my diet, I have found that I can tolerate goat milk and goat cheese pretty well. Goat milk/cheese is one of those things you either love or hate, and luckily for me, I love it!
We ended up going to Homeroom on our way home from Santa Cruz a few weeks ago, and I tested my stomach out to try their Mac the Goat mac & cheese. It still has some cows dairy in it, but much less than a normal bowl of mac & cheese. I opted for the gluten free noodles, no toasted breadcrumbs, and added some yummy bacon to the mix. It was amazing. And it didn't hurt my stomach at all, which made me very happy!
|Mac the Goat with added bacon.|
|Menu at Homeroom|
Unfortunately, I do live an hour away from Homeroom, so I can't go there as often as I'd like (B,L,&D - 365), so I challenged myself to make my own version at home.
I started out by chopping up some pastured bacon and frying it up until it was crispy.
Then I started out making a cheese sauce, just like my mom and grandma had taught me to make. Melt butter in a saucepan (I used Earth Balance Coconut spread), whisk in flour and cook briefly (I used brown rice flour), add milk (goat milk) and cheese (goat cheese) and cook over low until thick and creamy.
Then I cooked some gluten-free macaroni noodles and mixed it with the cheese sauce.
I topped it with the bacon and green onions and gave it a taste. It was delicious! It was very close to tasting like Homeroom, but saved me a long car ride!
And then I decided to get fancy and sauteed some crimini mushrooms in the bacon fat and put them on top of the mac n cheese. It was so heavenly and I'm pretty sure I saw Dave's eyes roll back in his head as he took his first bite.
Mac & Goat Cheese with Bacon
(inspired by Homeroom's Mac the Goat)
4 slices bacon, chopped
8 oz crimini mushrooms, slices
12 oz brown rice macaroni noodles
3 tbl Earth Balance Coconut spread
3 tbl brown rice flour
2 cups goat milk
6 oz soft goat cheese
4 green onions, sliced thinly
Fry bacon. Drain on a paper towel. Set aside.
Saute mushrooms in bacon fat. Drain on a paper towel and set aside.
Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain and rinse. Set aside.
Melt Earth Balance Coconut Spread in a sauce pan over medium low heat. When the spread is completely melted, sprinkle in rice flour and mix until its completely combined. Cook for a couple minutes, stirring constantly. Add milk and cheese. Cook over medium low until cheese is melted and sauce is thickened, about 15 minutes. Stir in noodles. Spoon into serving bowls and top with bacon, mushrooms and green onions. Serve immediately.