For those of us over a certain age, our genetic makeup was pretty much based on what our parents and grandparents knew about their family history. I knew I was 50% Irish, 25% Norwegian, and 25% a bunch of other stuff. I certainly had the “blue eyes put in with a dusty finger” (freckles) and skin that wouldn’t tan in a nuclear blast to back that up.
Then things like Ancestry and 23&Me came along and all of a sudden we could find out for sure. When my results came back, I was divided into something like 39% Irish and 34% Norwegian, with little slivers of Welsh, Scottish, etc. Which, OK – those Vikings got around and probably left some DNA on the Irish coast.
And it’s pretty fascinating – or maybe eerie – how they can link you to your ancestors. It showed that I was connected to the Mountain West Pioneers (some of my mom’s family came out with Brigham Young) and to Scandinavian communities in Western Washington.
It was also interesting how things differ even between close family members. I don’t have a “full” sibling in the genetic sense, so I don’t have anyone to compare with; but my sister and brother had slightly different reports from each other, as did my sister’s kids, my dad and my aunt, etc. The best explanation I came across was how when you make chocolate chip cookies, the recipe has 12 ounces of chocolate chips, but each cookie might have a few more or less than another.
And it keeps changing anyway – the last time I got a notification from Ancestry, my Irish was bumped up to 48% and my Norwegian dropped to 23%, so who knows?
Anyway, I’ve always identified strongly with my Irish side – for example, I wouldn’t dream of not wearing green on March 17 – so I knew I needed a special mac for St. Patrick’s Day. My first thought was to do something with a green (spinach) pasta and/or a pesto-parmesan cheese sauce. But then I came across this Guinness and Irish Cheddar Mac on Pinterest and decided to give it a whirl.
I ended up making this for a work lunch – at my office, it’s kind of like it was in school, we have the option to bring something in for our own birthday, or not. I have two co-workers with birthdays within a week of mine, so we teamed up and provided a full lunch for the whole staff. This was my contribution.
Guinness & Irish Cheddar Mac & Cheese
Adapted from Celebrating Sweets
INGREDIENTS (this is for a single batch; I doubled everything)
- 1 pound elbow macaroni
- 4 tablespoons butter (see notes)
- 4 tablespoons flour (see notes)
- 2/3 cup Guinness
- 1 ½ cups whole milk (see notes)
- ½ cup cream (see notes)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 2 ounces cream cheese, cut into pieces
- 3 ½ cups grated Irish cheddar, divided (see notes)
There’s an optional topping with breadcrumbs and garlic that I decided not to make since this would be made ahead and re-warmed in a crockpot. The recpe for that is available at Celebrating Sweets.
- Boil the macaroni in salted water until just barely al dente.
- Melt the butter in a large pan over medium heat, add flour, and whisk for several minutes until it thickens.
- Add the Guinness, milk, cream, salt, and mustard and bring to a simmer, continuing to whisk until it thickens, again for several minutes. It will still be fairly thin.
- Add the cream cheese and 2 ½ cups of the grated cheddar and stir until melted and smooth.
- Add the pasta and stir to coat, then add the remaining cheddar and stir until melted.
It turned out really well – my co-workers seemed to like it a lot, and when I brought a good-sized bowl of leftovers back to work the next day, the bowl was pretty much empty by the end of the day. I delivered some to my parents and they also said they really liked it.
I enjoyed it quite a bit, but I apparently have such a sensitivity to alcohol that I ended up with a headache that carried over to the next morning. A mac & cheese hangover, which might be a first! I am not a beer drinker, and rarely drink any type of alcohol, so I’m guessing this is just a “me” thing (it’s also been a stressful week on many fronts, with everything going on in the world).
- I want to say thank you to Allison, at Celebrating Sweets. She posted this recipe three years ago, but when I posted a question in the comments, she answered the same day.
- I made a double batch of this in the morning and then took it to work in my biggest crockpot. There was a LOT — I ended up having to take quite a bit of it out to get the rest heated through. I did add a little bit of milk during the process, and some more grated cheddar, but it would have been fine without either, and it didn’t seem to dilute the flavors of the Guinness or the cheddar.
- The original recipe calls for only two tablespoons each of butter and flour and mentions that it makes a very thin sauce and that it’s fine to increase it. I doubled that, and then doubled it again since I was doubling the whole recipe. The sauce was still fairly thin compared to the Bechamel sauces I have made the previous two weeks.
- One 11.2 ounce bottle of Guinness was exactly what the right amount for doubling the recipe (1 1/3 cup), so if you’re not doubling it, plan on having half a bottle left to drink!
- The original recipe called for 2% milk and half & half – I had whole milk and cream in my fridge, so that’s what I used.
- I used two types of Kerrygold cheese, the reserve cheddar and the sweet cheddar. I think it would be fine with just one or the other.
Posted March 22, 2020