Recipe 41: BBQ Mac and Cheese

This past weekend when Loverman was grocery shopping, he saw a nice pork shoulder.  Having been craving pulled pork for a while, he decided to pick it up.  When he started making it Sunday, he warned me, “It may get smokey in here for a bit.”  Not long thereafter the apartment filled with smoke.  And I do mean the entire apartment.  Both floors, in every room to some degree.  For some time we had every window open and had to disconnect the downstairs fire alarm, because it kept going off.  The dog followed me as I retreated upstairs in a vain attempt to escape the smoke.  She seemed to instinctually know, as all animals should, that smoke is not a good sign and should be fled immediately.  It seemed to traumatize her a bit, as for a while she followed me everywhere, even the bathroom, as if in need if reassurance that the apartment was not going to burn down.

Despite this inauspicious start, the pork turned out delicious.  Only one problem: There was a lot of it, and there are only two of us – three if you count the dog, but she’s only a little thing, considered fairly overweight, if not outright obese at 16 pounds – so there was only so much we can eat at one time.  My task: Find some recipes to use up the excess of pulled pork.  I didn’t initially seek out a mac and cheese recipe, but it came to me quite early in my search.  This came courtesy of Stubb’s BBQ Sauce company, but I didn’t use their BBQ sauce for the recipe.  It may make a difference, I really don’t know; I only know of a few BBQ sauces that are gluten-free for certain, so I stick with what I know.  Do what works for you, I say.

Sweet Heat BBQ Mac and Cheese (from Stubb’s BBQ)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound smoked pork shoulder
  • 12oz. dried ridged pasta, preferably rotini or farfalle (I have a hard time finding gluten-free pastas like this, so I used penne)
  • kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 small yellow onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (or gluten-free equivalent)
  • 3 1/2 cups whole milk (I used skim)
  • 1 1/2 cups Stubb’s Sweet Heat BBQ Sauce (I used a Memphis-style BBQ sauce)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Cheddar cheese (4oz.)
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese (4oz.)
  • 4oz. cream cheese (I used a product that is half cream cheese, half Greek yogurt to test it out)
  • 2/3 cups panko (or gluten-free equivalent)
  • 1/2 cup grated Pepper Jack cheese
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh chives – optional (I left them out)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Use leftover pulled pork from your last great BBQ or slow roast a pulled pork in your slow cooker or heavy duty roasting pan in the oven. For Stubb’s Slow Cooker Pulled Pork recipe, see our Grilling Tips videos (or, you know, just use whatever pulled pork recipe you like). Don’t sauce the pork if you haven’t already. Shred the pork into about 2″ long pieces.

Cook the pasta in a large pot of well-salted water according to package directions until just barely al dente. Drain and set aside.

Melt butter in a large 8-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, reduce heat to low and cook, stirring frequently until translucent and soft.

Whisk in flour and cook for 30 seconds. Whisk in milk slowly. Raise heat to medium high and whisk constantly until the mixture begins to thicken and bubble.

Whisk in Stubb’s Sweet Heat Bar-B-Q Sauce (or whatever other sauce you’re using) and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Bring mixture to a low simmer, whisking constantly.

Reduce the heat to low and use a wooden spoon to stir in all cheese except Pepper Jack until melted. Stir in the reserved pork and pasta until well coated. Pour the mixture into a 12″ cast iron skillet.

In a small bowl, mix the panko, Pepper Jack, and olive oil. Sprinkle evenly over the mixture in the skillet.

Bake until the topping is browned and the cheese sauce is bubbling through the topping and around the edges of the skillet, around 40-45 minutes. If the topping begins to brown too deeply, tent loosely with foil (I didn’t need to do this). Let the dish rest for at least 15 minutes. Sprinkle with chives and serve.

Porky goodness

Porky goodness

Verdict: 3.5/5

Although I like the contrast between the soft noodles and the toothsome pulled pork, it did feel a little too stringy to me.  Even though I didn’t use the Sweet Heat BBQ sauce they called for, I did think the sauce I used added a nice sweet touch to the flavors of the mac that paired well with the mild spice of the pepper jack topping.  Speaking of, I loved that pepper jack topping: with the panko it was a perfect combination of crunchy and chewy.  There were plenty of leftovers, and they warmed up just fine.  Overall a solid choice.