A light rain is falling in Charleston, South Carolina as we prepare for our Friday night office party. Our entire office is in Charleston for a company retreat. Today we toured two plantations, rode in a fabulous vintage bus, saw some alligators languishing in beautiful gardens. More on Charleston in the weeks to come, but I felt like it would be worth sharing a highlight of my trip thus far–smoked Gouda mac & cheese at Poogan’s Porch on Queen Street.

On our first night here, I booked dinner at Poogan’s Porch followed by a 9:30 pm ghost tour. Imagine my surprise when the tour took us right back to the restaurant to explain that it is haunted! Many people report that the an elderly woman that used to live in the house haunts it with the ghost along with the spirt of the dog “Poogan” who the restaurant was named for.

Everything we have had to eat in Charleston has been unique and delicious, but this mac and cheese stays with me. They say the Elizabeth Raffald had a recipe in her 1769 book The Experienced English Housekeeper, that was an early version of our beloved modern mac and cheeze–a béchamel sauce with cheddar cheese poured over noodles and topped with breadcrumbs and Parmesan.

Here is a recipe I found on epicurious.com that should make a good base. To make it close to what I sampled, take some browned pancetta or bacon and grate some of it finely with a micro-grater over the top, then sprinkle with a few larger pieces.

Mac & Cheese with smoky Gouda (from epicurious.com) with shaved and crumbled pork

    • 1 lb package short pasta (penne, elbow macaroni, etc)
    • 4 tablespoons butter
    • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    • 4 cups milk
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
    • ½ teaspoon paprika
    • 8-oz block sharp white cheddar cheese, grated and divided (about 2 cups)
    • 8-oz block smoked gouda cheese, grated and divided (about 2 cups)

Preparation

Cook the pasta according to package directions, set aside. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat; whisk in flour until smooth. Continue whisking and cook for 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in milk. Whisking constantly, cook for 5 minutes or until thickened. Reduce heat to low and stir in salt, black pepper and most of the cheese, reserving about a cup of cheese. Pour the pasta in a lightly greased 8 x 11 x 2 baking dish. Spoon the cheese sauce over the pasta, stirring lightly to even out the sauce in the pan. Sprinkle the top with the remaining cup of cheese and the paprika. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until bubbly. Remove from oven, and prepare yourself for out-of-this world macaroni and cheese.