One of my favorite BBQ side dishes is Mac & Cheese.
Now, like many of you I’m sure, I grew up on that neon-orange boxed stuff and, truth be told, every once in a while I’ll still tear open a pouch of “cheez powder” and enjoy a taste of my childhood.
…but I wouldn’t serve in alongside my barbecue.
For that, here’s a recipe that I’ve modified from one that my dad, Chef Frank L. Perkins, used to serve in his restaurants (it was also one of his favorite “microwave” breakfasts).
I serve this beside slow-smoked pork shoulder, and Terry Ramsey’s amazing pepper corn bread….and it’s a tough combo to beat!
Chef P’s Smoked Mac & Cheese
1 (16 ounce) package penne pasta
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all purpose flour
4 cups whole milk
8 ounces cream cheese, cut into large chunks
2 teaspoon hickory salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups extra sharp Tillamook Cheddar cheese, shredded
2 cups Gouda cheese shredded
1 cup Asiago cheese, shredded
1 lb pork jowl bacon, or unsliced double-smoked bacon
Slice jowl bacon into 1/2 inch thick slices.
Place on a rack over a baking sheet, and bake at 350 until crispy. Flip slices, and repeat. Remove bacon to paper towels to drain and cool. Chop coarsely.
Cook pasta according to package instructions, until just aldente. (Click here to see our instructions for perfect pasta). In a medium saucepan, melt butter, and whisk flour into the butter. Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes, until sauce is bubbly and thickened. Slowly whisk in milk and bring to a boil.
Cook 5 minutes until slightly thickened. Stir in cream cheese until mixture is smooth. Add salt and pepper.
In a large bowl, combine 1 cup Cheddar, 1 cup Gouda cheese, Asiago cheese, pasta, cream sauce, and bacon.
Spoon mixture into an 11 by 9 ½-inch disposable aluminum roasting pan coated with nonstick cooking spray. (You can use a non-disposable roasting pan too, like I did here, just know that it’s going to get smokey.)
Sprinkle top with remaining Cheddar cheese and Gouda cheese.
Load the wood tray with one small handful (1/4 cup) of wood chips and preheat the smoker to 225° F.
If using charcoal, burn one chimney of coals until ashed-over, dump in firebox, and toss in one small handful of chips or pellets.
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For gas grills, fire up one side of the grill on med-high, place small pan of woodchips over the hot side, and your mac & cheese on opposite end (cold side).
Cook 30 minutes, stir pasta, and add more wood chips. Repeat twice more for a total cooking time of 90 minutes. When ready to serve, just pop the pan into a 400d over for 30 minutes until browned and bubbly.
Tip: If reheating in the oven, try topping with 2 cups of Panko breadcrumbs before browning!
PS: Pork Jowl Bacon…