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Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese with Butternut Squash and Pork Belly

Ingredients

1 pound ditalini pasta

½ cup butter

4 tablespoons flour

1 tablespoon mustard powder

1 tablespoon creole seasoning

3 cups whole milk

4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

3 cups shredded smoked gouda

1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

2 cups butternut squash, peeled, diced, and blanched

Garnish: Smoked pork belly, panko topping, and quick-pickled red onions (recipes follow)

For the smoked pork belly:

2 tablespoons kosher salt

½ cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon paprika

1 tablespoon granulated garlic

1 tablespoon dark chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

½ tablespoon ground black pepper

2 pounds pork belly

Special equipment: wood smoker (Nutter uses a Big Green Egg), pecan wood chips

For the panko topping:

½ cup panko breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon papria

1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese

½ teaspoon minced parsley

For the quick-pickled red onion:

¾ cup red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

1 large red onion, peeled and thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the pasta; cook according to package instructions, then drain.
  2. Heat a dutch oven over medium heat. Melt butter and whisk in flour until it forms a smooth paste, then whisk in mustard powder and creole seasoning. Carefully pour in milk and bring mixture to a boil, whisking continuously to prevent scorching. Reduce heat and whisk in cream cheese until smooth. Whisk in remaining cheeses and stir until milted.
  3. Remove pot from heat and carefully add cooked pasta and squash. Stir gently until noodles and squash are coated in cheese sauce. Serve immediately and garnish with pork belly, panko topping, and pickled red onions.

Smoked Pork Belly

  1. In a small bowl, use a fork or whisk to combine salt, brown sugar, paprika, granulated garlic, chili powder, cumin, and pepper.
  2. If still attached, remove skin from pork belly. Score the top of the fat, being careful not to go through flesh. Place pork belly on a sheet pan and season liberally with dry rub, being sure to get rub into the crevices. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.
  3. When ready to smoke, bring pork belly to room temperature for about 1 hour. Follow your smoker’s instructions and bring temperature to 225 degrees. Add pecan woodchips to fire and place an aluminum drip pan with a few inches of water under the grates to catch the drippings. Place pork belly fat-side up in smoker and smoke until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees, about 3 to 4 hours. Only open the lid to add more woodchips.
  4. Remove pork belly from smoker and let rest on a wire rack for 20 to 30 minutes. Refrigerate overnight or dice into cubes and use as garnish for smoked gouda mac and cheese.

Panko Topping

In dry skillet, toast panko over medium heat. Once toasted, transfer to a small bowl. Wipe out skillet and place over medium heat. Add butter and heat until melted. Turn off heat. Add panko and paprika to skillet. Stir in cheese and parsley. Serve as garnish.

Quick-Pickled Red Onion

In a small saucepan, stir together vinegar, sugar, salt, fennel seeds, and peppercorns. Place over medium heat until simmering. Place onion and garlic in a small, heat-proof bowl or pint-sized mason jar. Pour hot vinegar mixture over onions and stir. Let onions rest at least 30 to 40 minutes before serving. They will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

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