If there’s one thing I look forward to as summer ends, it’s getting out the casserole pans and making some of my favorite cool-weather comfort foods, like a classic Mac ‘n Cheese. But one advantage of early fall weather is that you can still fire up the grill and cook outdoors, so I like to use the grill just like I would use my oven — it’s a perfect way to add smoky flavor to casseroles, like this amazing Grilled Mac ‘n Cheese, which uses Applewood-smoked cheddar, a hint of sweet butternut squash, and a slather of Tennessee barbecue sauce for good measure.
When using your grill this way, remember that you want to use indirect heat to avoid burning, so either put the pans on the top rack if you have one, or move all the coals to one side of the grill and place the pan over the side of the grill without coals.
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon dry mustard
3 cups whole milk
1/4 cup minced yellow onion
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 large egg
1/4 pound sharp cheddar, shredded
1/2 pound Applewood smoked cheddar, shredded (reserve 1/2 cup)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 pound elbow or cut macaroni (2 cups), cooked until barely al dente
1/2 cup puréed cooked butternut squash
1/2 cup of your favorite barbecue sauce
1. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and mustard and keep whisking for 5 minutes so that it doesn’t develop any lumps. Whisk in the milk, then the onion and paprika. Simmer, whisking occasionally for 10 minutes.
2. In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg, and then continue beating while adding a little of the hot sauce to it. Whisk this mixture back into the pan with the rest of the hot sauce, then stir in the shredded cheese, except the 1/2 cup of Applewood smoked cheddar that you have reserved. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Fold the cooked macaroni and puréed butternut squash into the cheese sauce, mixing well, then pour into a 2.5-quart casserole and spread into an even layer.
4. Brush the top of the macaroni mixture with the barbecue sauce, then sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese over the top.
5. Place the casserole dish onto your preheated grill over indirect heat and bake for about 30 minutes, until the top is browned and bubbling. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
• Grilling the butternut squash before puréeing adds another layer of delicious smoky flavor to this dish!
• If you don’t have any Applewood smoked cheddar or smoked paprika, don’t despair. A couple of drops of Liquid Smoke will also add extra smokiness, and you can also give it a little smoky spice with ground chipotle seasoning.
• Make this an easy complete meal by grilling some broccoli with the casserole. Just toss it with a little olive oil and salt before putting it on the grill, then grill for a few minutes on each side. Add a little fresh lemon juice and fresh ground pepper just before serving.
• Don’t have a grill? No worries. Bake it in the oven at 375° for about 30 minutes!
Fiesta Bakeware provided by Homer Laughlin China Company.
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