For many, St. Patrick’s Day is a chance to proudly wear green, serve up Crock Pot corned beef and cabbage, and indulge in a few Irish beers. For my family, it was always all about the Irish soda bread – without raisins and slathered with a generous helping of salted butter.
While all those foods taste good and give you a feeling of nostalgia, I wouldn’t call them great. And who wants just OK food? Not this Irish chef. That’s where this recipe for Corned Beef Mac and Cheese with Beer Béchamel comes in. It sounds like a mouthful, but trust me on this one.
This recipe starts with leftover corned beef because you know you always have some left over. I cut it into cubes, crisp it up in a hot skillet, then fold it into the béchamel (the base of macaroni and cheese sauce, made with flour, butter and milk) to bring out more flavor and add more texture.
Speaking of béchamel, I replace some of the milk you’d use in a traditional cream sauce with beer. It gives it a hoppy vibe and fits into the Irish theme. I also fold in grainy Dijon mustard for tang and to cut the richness of the sharp cheddar cheese.
After that, I mix the sauce with my favorite kind of noodle – cavatappi. The corkscrew shape not only looks beautiful but is the perfect vessel for the sauce to cling to. The little ridges on the pasta help get cheesiness in every little nook and cranny.
Lastly, I top the mac and cheese with homemade rye bread croutons and shredded gruyere cheese. The gruyere gives this dish that last final push to really make this feel like a St. Paddy’s day miracle. If you can’t find rye bread (or don’t like it), use sourdough or just a traditional baguette.
So, this St. Patrick’s Day, when you’re left with an abundance of corned beef, try something other than making a sandwich. The only thing left to do is figure out what to do with all that leftover cabbage. Cabbage pancakes, anyone?
Corned Beef Mac and Beer Cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 large slices rye bread, torn into 1-inch pieces
1/2 pound cooked corned beef, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 pound cavatappi pasta (or similar shape)
12 ounces Irish beer
3 cups whole milk
4 tablespoons salted butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons grainy mustard
3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded gruyere cheese
2 tablespoons minced chives
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a large baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl, toss bread cubes with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add to baking sheet and bake until golden brown, about 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool, then coarsely chop. Set aside.
3. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add corned beef and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and crispy, about 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to plate and set aside.
4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add cavatappi and cook until al dente according to the package instructions. Drain and set aside.
5. Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook for 2 minutes.
6. Slowly whisk in beer, whisking continuously as you pour, to avoid any lumps from the flour mixture. Then slowly whisk in the milk followed by the Dijon mustard.
7. Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer and continue to whisk occasionally until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes.
8. Turn down heat, add cheddar cheese and stir until melted.
9. Add the cooked pasta to pot and stir until it’s coated with the cheese sauce.
10. Transfer to prepared baking dish. Top with shredded gruyere cheese and reserved breadcrumbs.
11. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until it’s bubbly and golden brown.
12. Garnish with chives and serve.