I think it's about time for a recipe using beer.
I've been playing around with beer in baking and the beer flavor always seems to bake right out. In my book that pretty much defeats the purpose of using beer. I can understand why people want to disguise veggies in food but why would you put beer in something if you can't even tell it's in there?
Since most of my experiments were baking related (think beer bread, chocolate cake, etc), I decided to try cooking with it instead. Wait, I just realized this is baked at the end. Oh well too late, already made it. Anyway it starts out with cooking the cheese sauce over the stove, that's what I was trying to get at. Like beer cheese soup, with pasta.
I thought about cooking the noodles in beer, but that uses a lot of beer that you just end up dumping out. I had several ideas to try out and finally decided I didn't know what I was doing and that I had better just stick to the recipe. I grew up on box mac and cheese so making it from scratch is probably not the place for me to improvise. With box mac and cheese you don't need to look at the box, you just do it. But homemade mac and cheese and playing with beer, not the time to start making things up as you go. So I stuck with the recipe. Almost. Don't worry, nothing too dramatic. I couldn't find whole-wheat elbow noodles so I used regular. Then cheap side of me didn't want to give in and buy an $8 jar of smoked paprika just for 1/4 tsp so I used Spanish paprika. Other than that I followed the recipe, which had pretty good reviews.
Maybe I did something wrong since I'm so used to the box version. The beer flavor came through better than my other beer baking experiments, but the cheese sauce just wasn't right. Lots of pasta and hardly any sauce. I was hoping for a creamy, cheesy, cheddar-flavored beer sauce. The result was more of an oily pasta with some beer flavor but very little cheese sauce. I don't know, maybe I'm just used to the stove top stuff instead of the baked kind. It could be personal preference, the recipe itself, or just my technique. Please, please, please let me know if this is a common technique problem and you have the solution. I would love to know where this went wrong so I don't make the same mistake next time.
Yes, there will be a next time. I'll try out a different recipe, use different beer (I used Jumping Cow Amber Ale), and branch out on the type of cheese. I might even play around with cooking the noodles in beer, but no promises on that.
Do you eat your mac and cheese with a spoon or a fork? Do you stab or scoop? I distinctly remember taking those stick straight noodles (you know, from the cheap store-brand boxes) and sliding the tines of my fork through the opening of each noodle. Kind of like putting on a sock or gloves. I would push them all the way to the bottom of the tines and see how many I could fit on at once. Good thing I used elbow noodles this time around or I may have tried that feat again, just for old times sake of course.
You can get the recipe I followed from How Sweet It Is. It's a great blog, so don't discredit her recipe because of my results. She obviously makes better beer mac and cheese than I do. Let me know if you try it out and have any tips to pass along.
Food for Thought: "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity. An optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty" -Winston Churchill