Thursday, March 10, 2011

Luck 'o the Irish Mac and Cheese

There is exactly one week till St. Patrick’s Day…..This used to be a huge day for me.  No, I’m not Irish.  But I went to Chico for college…..And that means that I know how to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day as if it is the most important holiday ever.  What’s crazy is I didn’t even celebrate it nearly as hard as my Chico brothers and sisters.  In Chico, you wake up at 5am, to make sure you are in line for the bars when they open at 6am.  Chances are there isn’t even any “waking up” to be done…..you are still awake from the night before.  You party all day….or for as long as you can.  People are out in the streets celebrating!  And you definitely don’t go to class.  But by “you”, I don’t mean me….Except for the class part.  I would take any excuse to skip class.
For me, my experience was a tad different.  I have only stayed up all night maybe 3 times in my whole life, and it wasn’t by choice.  There isn’t anything important enough to keep me up all night, or get me out of bed at 5am….and that included celebrating St. Patrick’s Day.  So I rolled out of bed at maybe 8am and headed to the bars or a party.  Of course, I had by then missed a good few hours of fun, if not a whole night of fun.  But I still managed to fit in enough green beer to celebrate the day in true Chico style.  I just never got the free t-shirts handed out at 6am……
Of course, now St. Patrick’s Day is a whole ‘nother ball of wax.  Now, it means making sure my kids are wearing green, dying our milk green….and corned beef and cabbage.  I love corned beef and cabbage.  I always have.  I even love corned beef hash out of a can.  I guess I just love salty, fatty meat;)  It isn’t my family’s favorite though….I wanted to come up with a way to serve corned beef and cabbage so that I could enjoy it, but in a way that my family would eat it too.  After many hours of deep thought (Ok, maybe 5 minutes), I came up with “Irish Mac and Cheese”.  Everybody loves Mac and Cheese, right?  And the Irish sure do make a mean cheddar cheese…..It turned out great!  I will show you how I made it….
I used about 3 cups of corned beef.  The deli in your grocery store has this right now….I promise.  I bet they have signs all over advertising a corned beef sandwich, made fresh at the deli.  Ask them to slice it about ¼ to ½ an inch thick.  You can dice it when you get home.  If your deli doesn’t have corned beef, which is weird btw, you can always cook your own.
I also used about ½ a head of green cabbage.  Just plain green cabbage….It is probably one of the cheapest things in your grocery store.
For the sauce, I used Irish Cheddar Cheese (probably found near the deli, in your grocery store’s fancier cheese section), whole milk, spicy brown mustard, flour, butter and salt and pepper.  I am going to top the mac and cheese with rye bread crumbs…..so that’s why those are in this picture…..in case you were wondering.
 I think whole milk works best for this, but I have made mac and cheese with low fat milk….Your choice.  For the bread crumbs….I bought some rye bread and popped a few slices in the oven to dry them out.  Then, I threw them in the food processor.  I used rye because that is what you usually would find with corned beef.
Above is the “mac” part of this.  I cooked a 1 pound box of macaroni.  I followed the package directions.  I am positive you can handle that on your own;)
Before I got started on the sauce, I sautéed the cabbage a bit.  I sautéed it for about 2 minutes in some butter, salt and pepper.  I just wanted to wilt it a teeny tiny bit, but not cook it so much that it would end up soggy in the mac and cheese. 
Now comes the fun part.  We are going to make a roux, people.  Sounds hard, right?  It’s not.  A roux is flour and butter cooked together to be a thickener.  The roux will help us make a béchamel, which is the base of our sauce.  A béchamel is milk sauce thickened with a roux.  I know it sounds fancy, but it really is easy.  And now you can tell people all about how you can make a béchamel….You are one step away from being a fancy French chef;)
I added flour to melted butter and whisked it till it was a smooth paste.  I let that cook for a minute or two to cook out the flour taste.  Then, I slowly added milk, whisking the whole time to prevent lumps.  Once this mixture comes to a boil, the roux will do its job and thicken it.  I only let it boil for about a minute.  At this point, you will have a thick milk sauce.  The key to this sauce is constant stirring!

Time for the cheese!!  Like I said above, I used a good Irish cheddar.  An Irish cheddar isn’t orange like an American cheddar.  It is a pale yellow, and it is super sharp.  I stirred the cheese into the sauce, over low heat, till it melted.  I also stirred in a couple of tablespoons of mustard and a bit of salt and pepper.  I don’t use too much salt because the corned beef is very salty.
Time to stir together all of the components.  I just do this in the big pot that I cooked the noodles in.
I poured the whole thing into a greased 13x9 casserole.  I sprinkled the bread crumbs over the top.

I also put little bits of butter all over the top to help it brown in the oven.  This part is totally optional, and may be a bit of overkill.  I think it was the Paula Deen in me that made me toss on more butter.

I baked it at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.  I love mac and cheese with a crunchy top! 

This has all the elements of a great mac and cheese.  It has a cheesy, creamy sauce with a crunchy top.  Plus, it has yummy salt corned beef and crisp cabbage.  The mustard totally works in the sauce too.  I think that this is a great St. Patrick’s Day option.  It has all the elements of a traditional corned beef and cabbage dinner; it just has a different twist.  I hope you try it!  It goes great with green beer!

Irish Mac and Cheese
1 box (16 ounce) elbow macaroni, cooked
3 cups corned beef, chopped
½ a medium sized head of green cabbage, shredded
¼ cup butter, plus 3 tablespoons
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard
3 cups Irish Cheddar Cheese, grated
Salt and pepper
1 cup rye bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Sauté shredded cabbage, in 1 tablespoon of butter, for 2 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
Melt ¼ cup butter in sauce pot, over medium heat.  Once the butter is melted, whisk in the flour.  Whisk until a smooth paste is formed.  Continue cooking, over medium heat, for one minute.  Slowly add milk, whisking constantly.  Cook over medium heat until sauce comes to a boil.  Simmer for one minute, or until thickened.  Stir in cheese and mustard.  Cook, over low heat, until cheese is melted.  Stir in salt and pepper to taste.
Mix together, in a large bowl, cooked macaroni, cooked cabbage, corned beef and sauce.  Pour into a greased 13 x 9 casserole.  Top with bread crumbs.  Dot remaining butter over the top.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until browned on top.


  1. I am so unbelievably stoked to try this. The amount of corned beef and cabbage we have left over is ridiculous after St Patty's day! SO excited!!!

  2. I will definitely be making this for St. Patrick's day! Yummmmmm!!!!!!

  3. Yum!! I will have to make this - it looks fantastic! Also, I love the update to the blog - it looks great!

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  5. This would be a wonderful change to what we're having for St.Paddy's day.I followed you from the foodie blog roll and I'd love to guide Foodista readers to your site. I hope you could add this mac and cheese widget at the end of this post so we could add you in our list of food bloggers who blogged about recipes for mac and cheese,Thanks!