Smoked Mac and Cheese & Big Bear Recap

June 30 , 2014 by: Marga Munson Main Dish, Side Dish, Travel

Oh lawwwwwd. Comfort food. Do I really need to say anything else? There is something so divine about macaroni and cheese. And I do not give a shit if it’s out a box with the neon cheese mix, or made from scratch. I do not discriminate against mac and cheese. Cheesy noodles? I’m there. Mike and I share this sentiment. That is why there is pretty much always mac and cheese in our pantry. However, my mother-in-law Barb recently gave me her homemade recipe and I absolutely love it. It’s a really solid recipe that is perfect for a crowd. Or…perfect for my husband and I to eat straight out of the pan and not share with anyone else without feeling an ounce of shame…But I digress.

Since I have been having so much fun with my smoker this summer, I decided to kick this mac and cheese up a notch and toss it on the smoker. And let me tell you. It’s fantastic. Smokey, cheesy, ooey-gooey goodness. But definitely perfect for the oven as well. And it’s really versatile. You could add bacon, or jalapenos, or whatever really. The options are endless. I’d usually post a picture to prove the deliciousness…but we ate outside and it was dark so the pictures look terrible. You’ll just have to take my word for it!

Smoked Mac and Cheese (care of Barb!)
Makes 6-8 servings (depending on how big of a fatty you are)

4 cups large elbow macaroni
4 cups shredded melting cheese*
1/4 cup flour
2 sticks of butter sliced into small cubes
2 cups of milk
1 sleeve of saltine crackers
Salt & Pepper

Cook macaroni until ALMOST al dente. Because it is going in the smoker (or oven) you want it to have some bite to it still. Drain the macaroni in a colander. Grease a 9×13 baking dish with butter or Pam. Put a layer of macaroni across the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle flour over it and season with salt and pepper. Put a handful of the butter cubes on top, and then a layer of the cheese. Repeat this until you have 3 layers, or are out of macaroni. Pour the milk evenly over the layered macaroni and sprinkle whatever cheese you have left on top. Crush the saltine crackers in a baggie and then spread them evenly over the top. They will crisp up in the smoker/oven.

Now here is where is gets epic. Start your smoker, and then preheat it to 350 degrees. Smoke the mac and cheese for an hour, or until the top is browned nicely and the milk has been absorbed. It will take the same amount of time at the same temperature in an oven. Let it cool for 10-15 minutes if you can wait that long and dig in!

* Just a note on the cheese for this recipe. Barb likes to use Tillamook cheddar, and there is certainly nothing wrong with that. In fact, I love that cheese, it’s delicious.. However, any yummy melty cheese would work here. You could do smoked gouda, white cheddar, or even a combination. Have fun with it!! We had a white cheddar/gruyere blend in the fridge from TJ’s, so that’s what we went with! Holy crap it was FANTASTIC. We even had friends over for dinner, one of whom does not like mac and cheese…and he had 2 servings. It’s THAT good.

Talking about something being good, great and fantastic….Big Bear Lake. Mike set up a little getaway as a graduation present so we went this past weekend. I had never been up there, and I absolutely loved it. It’s the perfect day (plus some) trip. It’s only about an hour and a half away, so it’s an easy drive, and there is a TON to do up there, regardless of the season. We arrived around 10:30am on Saturday and totally scored by being able to check into our cabin at Big Bear Frontier a full four hours early! The cabin was adorable too. Literally a 1 minute walk from the shore of the lake, 5 minutes from the marina, and 10 to the village, where a bunch of restaurants and shops are. The location cannot be beat.

So we checked in, and then decided to walk to the village for lunch. We found a new brewery that just opened 2ish months ago called the Big Bear Lake Brewing Company. Cute little place, beer brewed on site, and tasty food. We had spicy edamame with shishito peppers and we split their BBQ burger. And of course we had a couple of their beers. Yum yum yum.

Pomegranate Wheat and Hefewiezen

Afterwards we walked back to the cabin, changed into swim gear, and headed to the marina. We rented a tandem kayak for an hour….and used it for about 45 minutes. It was a load of fun, paddling around like we had a clue what we were doing. At the end of our time, we went back to the cabin, cleaned up and cycled through the HBO movies. We decided to get take out dinner from this Nepalese-Indian food place called the Himalayan. We had chicken and paneer tikka masala with naan and samosas. All super flavorful and delicious. We were smart enough to pack a couple of beers, so we sat out on the deck connected to the cabin and ate. It was lovely.

My handsome hubby and I

As the sun started going down, we walked to the shore and sat and watched the sunset. It was gorgeous over the water.

The next morning we got up, checked out, and strolled through village for about an hour before having lunch at Jasper’s Smokehouse. Mike and I shared pulled pork and pulled brisket sandwiches. Good stuff. We bought one little knick knack to bring home….a ceramic bear that holds a wine bottle. So us.

The newest member of the family

It was the perfect quick getaway. We both had a blast, and will definitely be going back in the winter!

XOXO,

Marga

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