A couple of weeks, my sister-in-law texted me from her lunch at Cheese-ology, a macaroni & cheese restaurant here in St. Louis. She was having their seasonal beer cheese and bratwurst version, and insisted that I needed to either go get some or make some. Now, I've never been a huge fan of mac & cheese. Even as a kid, I refused to eat the stuff (yes I was a strange child, and I knew it, and I liked it). I've had some as an adult that I have thoroughly enjoyed, but I am picky... it's gotta have some sort of sharp flavor element, like mustard or sharp cheese. Beer seemed right up my mac & cheese alley!
A couple of weekends ago I went to Hermann, MO for their Oktoberfest. While I was there, I stopped at the fabulous Swiss Meat & Sausage Co. to stock up on their yummy goods. I got some of their beer bratwurst specifically for this perfectly timed fall dish.
I was a little nervous, having never made Macaroni & Cheese. But I know the basic techniques... cooking pasta, making a béchamel, drinking beer.... so everything was easy. I had my sister-in-law and brother over, since she gave me the idea and had tried this dish. My brother ate all the mac & cheese growing up, so I knew he was a good judge, as well. They really liked it. And so did I! You can really taste the beer, but it compliments everything well, giving it the kick that I look for in mac & cheese. I served it with a simple fall salad (greens, shaved fennel, pomegranate seeds, orange vinaigrette) and the Schlafly Oktoberfest that is in the sauce.
Beer & Bratwurst Macaroni & Cheese
-14 oz. box dried macaroni (whole wheat works great for this! healthy! ;))
-3 beer brats, sliced (freeze them a bit to make them easier to slice without smooshing)
-4 Tablespoons butter
-3 Tablespoons flour
-1 1/2 cups milk
-1 1/2 cups Oktoberfest or Märzen beer (I used Schlafly Oktoberfest)
-1 teaspoon mustard powder
-6 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
-4 oz. aged provolone cheese, shredded
-1 1/2 cups Panko bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 400ºF.
Cook macaroni to al dente, drain, set aside.
Cook the bratwurst, adding a splash of beer a few minutes in, until all the pieces are cooked through and have some nice browning. Set aside. Chop into smaller pieces, if desired.
In same pan, melt 3 Tablespoons of the butter. Add the flour and stir, cooking until the raw-flour smell is gone and the roux is starting to turn golden. Add the milk and beer, stirring and scrapping the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add mustard powder. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer until it thickens a bit, about 8 minutes. Turn off heat and add cheese, stirring until all is melted and sauce is smooth and creamy. Taste for seasoning, add salt as needed.
Add drained macaroni and the chopped up bratwurst to the cheese sauce and stir to combine. Pour the mixture into a buttered casserole dish. Bake for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, melt 1 Tablespoon of butter, and add it to the bread crumbs, stirring until well combined. After 20 minutes of baking, top the mac & cheese with the breadcrumbs and bake for another 15-20 minutes, until the topping starts to brown. Let cool & set about 10 minutes before serving.
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