Mac ‘n’ Maple…. Mack and Mabel – d’ya see what we did there? This is an absolutely amazing main meal – and the bacon HAS to be tried!
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Mack and Mabel is a musical with a book by Michael Stewart and music and lyrics by Jerry Herman. Although this show has long-enjoyed cult status, it has struggled to find critical success despite many attempted revivals.
The show charts the rise and fall of silent movie-maker Mack Sennett and his star Mabel Normand, spanning the years from 1911 to 1938. Through the use of flashbacks, the glory days of Keystone Studios are recreated. This included, for me, a personal link as the Keystone Cops are featured, one of whom was played by my grandfather’s cousin, Jimmy Henderson Finlayson. (He later went on to be Laurel and Hardy’s main foil in a number of movies and his “Doh” catchphrase was adopted and adapted by Dan Castellaneta for use by Homer Simpson, but I digress…..)
The tale culminates with drug addiction, the ruining of reputations and murder. A happy ending is bolted on but, perhaps, a large dollop of comfort food may also be required for all involved…. And what could be more comforting than a hearty bowl of Mac’n’Cheese!
Everyone has their own recipe for this, so feel free to use your own. Once your Mac’n’Cheese is ready, try drizzling a little maple syrup over the top and serving with delicious maple-candied bacon – as the song goes, I promise you a happy ending!
To prepare the bacon, mix mustard, brown sugar, salt and 2 tbsp of maple syrup in a bowl, add the bacon and ensure that each slice is well coated in the mix (there isn’t much mix to spare at this stage). Place a rack over a foiled baking tray and lay out the bacon rashers in a single layer. Bake in a preheated oven for about 20 minutes, keeping an eye on them to make sure the sugary coating isn’t burning.
Lower the oven temperature to 140C, turn over the rashers and baste with some of the remaining maple syrup and return to the oven for another 10 minutes. Keep turning and basting until the bacon looks suitably crispy and sticky (how long will depend on how much water is in your bacon). Leave to cool for 5 minutes and then transfer to a sheet of non-stick baking parchment until ready for use. Try not to eat it all before you want to serve it!
Cook your pasta as per the instructions on the packet. Meanwhile, melt 25g of the butter in a non-stick saucepan. Add the flour and stir well, cooking for a couple of minutes. Gradually add in the milk, stirring (or whisking, if you prefer) well until the sauce has thickened and just starting to gently bubble around the edges. Add the grated cheddar (more or less depending on taste) and stir until melted, adding any additional seasoning. Take off the heat.
Melt the remaining 20g butter and combine with the breadcrumbs and parmesan. Try to keep this mixture nice and crumbly.
When the pasta is ready, drain well and return to the pan along with the cheese sauce and, if using, the chopped ham. Once mixed, added to a well-greased oven dish and sprinkle over the breadcrumb topping.
Place the mac’n’cheese under a hot grill (or return to the oven if it has cooled down) until the top is nicely browned a crunchy. Lastly, drizzle 2-3 tbsp maple syrup in a zig-zag pattern over the dish.
Serve alongside the candied bacon which can either be broken up into shards or left whole.