Bacon Macaroni & Cheese

There are some quirky indulgences that I have which are incredibly unhealthy, and I will never be able to give up. French-dressing drizzled on white rice? Check. Excess of chocolatey goods? Check. President’s Choice Mac & Cheese? Check.  To be quite honest, I was never a Kraft Dinner kid. That orange food colouring, the whole method of mixing the sauce straight onto the noodles never quite made sense to me.  My mom always opted to purchase the more gourmet, house option for me from the local Loblaws: President’s Choice. My theory is, the old black packaging seemed targeted towards a mature crowd, like it wasn’t meant for kids – it was the grown up’s mac and cheese. With that comes the idea of sophistication, better ingredients, better taste, better quality.  Since my childhood I have been a devout fan, requesting nothing but PC brand, and I will continue to be  fan for a loooong time. Galen Weston and his marketing team recently revamped a lot of their President’s Choice brand products, including my all time favourite: PC Deluxe White Cheddar Mac & Cheese  – which meant the box which once sold for .69 – a total steal, has been bumped up to $1.99. I actually have had discussions of outrage with my peers about how unfortunate it is that they jacked up the price so much, and more importantly where you can find the old price in certain stores (I was lucky enough to stock up this weekend on a few dozen) :P.

The Old PC M&C Branding

New PC Mac & Cheese Branding (not to be confused with Blue Label)

On Saturday I jazzed up the usual boxed-delight with some gourmet touches, truly making it the mature mac and cheese choice. I baked (not fried) some thick-cut bacon for about 25 minutes at 425 degrees until pieces were still chewy and crispy, while I cooked up the macaroni noodles and frozen peas. Once the bacon was cooked, I used some bacon fat instead of butter to make the deluxe cheddar sauce from the box, paired with 2% milk and essential seasonings: pepper, smoked hungarian paprika, garlic. I didn’t add salt because the bacon fat already added that level of saltiness- otherwise it would’ve been sodium overkill. I tossed the noodles into the creamy sauce, I cut up the bacon into small strips and mixed those in with the peas with the final result looking like this:

It’s so incredibly easy to take an easy, go-to food like boxed mac and cheese and really up the ante in flavour and appearance. While the addition of bacon and bacon fat may have risen the cholestoral, calories, fat, what have you, at the end of the day, it was absolutely delicious. Using a variety of seasonings and ingredients can really take simple and quick food like boxed macaroni and cheese to a whole new level that even the haughtiest of foodies would appreciate and enjoy with every last bite (and they won’t even know it’s from a box!)

Plus, as a great chef from New Orleans once said, “Pork fat rules!”