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Mac and Cheese (Grant Achatz’s from Food and Wine magazine, Dec ’06)

6 thick slices of bacon, diced, 1 medium onion, minced, 2 bay leaves, 1 T. sweet paprika, ½ t. cayenne,1/3 c. AP flour, 6 c. milk, 1 # elbow macaroni, 1# extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded. Browned bread crumbs if desired.

Preheat oven to 350° and spray a 9×13 pan with non stick cooking spray

In a large saucepan over medium heat, cook the bacon until crispy, about 7 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Add onion and bay leaves to pan and cook until onion is softened, 5 minutes. Stir in paprika and cayenne until fragrant. Add in flour and stir to incorporate. Slowly whisk in milk until smooth. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly until thickened. Reduce heat to low and simmer gently, stirring frequently for 30 minutes. Remove bay leaves. Boil water and cook pasta until just soft. Drain. Stir all but approximately one cup of cheese into the sauce, stirring well. Add in bacon. Pour over macaroni and mix well. Spread mac and cheese in baking dish and top with remaining cheese. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbling. Allow to stand for 10 minutes before serving.

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