Macaroni and Limburger

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Creamy Limburger challenges its malodorous reputation in this comfort food delight. Rich and cheesy macaroni is punctuated by crunchy breadcrumbs and crispy bacon, while a hint of caraway salutes the traditional Limburger on rye of yesteryear.

But do yourself a favor: reveal the star ingredient only after the plates are cleaned. Then bask in the pleasantly surprised looks.

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Macaroni and Limburger
Serves 6-8

4 T butter
3 cups milk
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
6 oz. Limburger
2 oz. Parmesan cheese
1/2 lb. elbow macaroni
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
3/4 teaspoon caraway seeds
2 slices thick cut bacon, cubed
chopped parsley or chives for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Cube the bacon and brown in a saucepan until golden on the edges. Transfer to a paper towel and set aside. Reserve a tablespoon of bacon fat in the pan and add the panko breadcrumbs, toasting until darker golden brown in color. Remove from heat and set aside.

3. Heat the milk in a medium saucepan on low heat. Turn off once it is warmed.

4. In a separate medium saucepan, melt the butter and add flour to make a light roux. Gradually pour in the warm milk, stirring until thickened to a béchamel.

5. Meanwhile turn a pot of water on high heat to boil the macaroni.

6. Trim the rind off the Limburger and cube. Add the cubes of Limburger, mustard powder, and caraway seeds, salt and pepper to the béchamel and stir until incorporated. Turn off the heat. (A word on the rind: though delicious, the rind does not melt evenly in the béchamel. To add some umami flavor, I added large trimmings of the rind, separate from the cubes, and then removed them before adding in the macaroni. This step is optional.)

7. Boil the macaroni until just slightly before al dente. The noodles should be tough but not crunchy (they will continue to cook further in the sauce and in the oven)

8. Drain the macaroni and fold into the cheese sauce until well coated. Stir in bacon cubes, reserving 2 tablespoons for topping.

9. Pour macaroni into a greased 9″ casserole dish or individual ramekins.

10. Generously sprinkle on the breadcrumbs. Grate the Parmesan on top.

11. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes, or until just browning along the casserole edges. Top with reserved bacon cubes and garnish with a sprinkle of parsley or chives. Serve with a side of crunchy kale chips.

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