Who would combine Mac and cheese with Chocolate? I wouldn’t have ever thought of this combo but when I see something off the wall like this on a menu I have to order it – the dish is either going to be really good or as weird as it sounds. In this case it works really well.
This is a dish that is featured at Jack’s Bistro in the Canton Neighborhood of Baltimore. It’s one of our favorite restaurants in the area for it’s eclectic menu offerings. Sunday after the football game we were searching for a place for dinner and landed at Jack’s. Every time we go we order this dish and ask for hints on how to make it. They will never reveal their secret so last night I set out to re-create it.
The menu tells us that the sauce is made with smoked gouda cheese. So I picked up two types at the store: one with bacon, one without. My crew loves bacon and chocolate together and I thought this might add a flavor dimension to the dish. I also grabbed some gruyere to give a bit of body and richness to the sauce. I made a standard white béchamel and did a taste test between the two flavors of cheese.
I had a package of Ghirardelli Bittersweet (60% Cacao) Chocolate Chips that Steve pulverized in the blender. We tasted the resulting powder and it was perfect.
I mixed two versions of the mac and cheese then sprinkled it with the chocolate. Julia joined us for dinner and the consensus was that we nailed both dishes. The smoked gouda without the bacon was a cheesier version of Jack’s. The smoked gouda version with the bacon was the clear favorite. It provided a bolder flavor profile. Both dishes were a hit and I would recommend either version but my family has settled on the addition of bacon.
- 4 Oz. Bittersweet ( 60% Cacao) Chocolate* chips or a bar broken into small pieces
- 2 Quarts of Water
- 1 Tablespoon of Salt
- 1 Pound Small or Medium Shell Pasta
- 3 Tablespoons of Unsalted Butter
- 2 Tablespoons Flour
- 2 Cups Milk plus ½ Cup to thin the sauce if needed
- 3 Oz. Smoked Gouda Cheese with Bacon*, grated
- 1 ½ oz of Gruyere Cheese, grated
- Sea Salt and Freshly Ground White Pepper
- Place the chocolate in a small food processor or heavy-duty blender and pulverize to a powder. Transfer the powder to a small container and set aside.
- Put the water, ½ teaspoon of the salt, and the oil in a large pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Add the shells and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 8 - 10 minutes. Drain the pasta saving a cup of pasta water to thin the sauce if needed.
- Meanwhile, in a small, heavy saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly until the sauce is smooth and thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, about 8 minutes. Stir in the cheese, remove from heat and continue stirring until the cheese melts. Combine the cheese sauce and pasta shells in a large mixing bowl and mix well. Season to taste with sea salt and white pepper. If needed, thin the cheese mixture adding small amounts of the pasta water to achieve the desired consistency. Transfer the Shells and Cheese Sauce to a serving dish and sprinkle the chocolate over it. Serve the dish warm with the remaining chocolate on the side so your guests can sprinkle on as much on their serving as they would like.
- Save any remaining chocolate in an airtight container for another use.