March 14, 2015

Mac 'n Cheese Pie with Bacon Lattice for the Ultimate Pi Day

Do you guys know what today is? It's Pi Day! But it's not just any old Pi Day, it's the Ultimate Pi Day! *voice echo**explosion sounds**special effects*

As you may know, Pi Day is March 14th every year because 3/14 = 3.14, the first three digits of pi. This year, however, the date is 3/14/15, and 3.1415 are the first 5 digits of pi. Not only that, but at 9:26:53 AM, we're at 3.141592653, a full 10 digits of pi. This is the only time this will occur in our lifetimes, you guys, and I think that's pretty darn cool.

Does that make me a huge nerd?

Fun fact: even though I'm actually pretty good at math, I was really bad at geometry. I took it freshman year of high school, at a time when I was flirting with the idea of going into architecture. After taking geometry, I knew architecture was a bad choice for me. If you can't calculate shapes and angles, you shouldn't be building things. Statistics is more my speed. I killed at statistics.
Now, I knew I had to do something epic to celebrate the Ultimate Pi Day. Since Pi Day is traditionally celebrated with pie for obvious reasons, that was the way to go. But me and pie, we're not the best of buds. I don't really make it that often, and I wouldn't really know how to go epic, you know? So I did some interwebz research and found a bacon topped macaroni and cheese pie on Buzzfeed. That sounded pretty epic, and also pretty easy.

Now, since I'm me and I don't follow recipes, I sort of went my own way. But in this case, "going my own way" actually meant using a couple of short cuts. You may recall that I have a block against pastry crusts. I can't make them. It never works. So, I bought some frozen puff pastry to use as a crust. I also, and I'm ashamed to admit it, bought the cheese sauce from the grocery store. That's not a thing I ever thought I would say, but I didn't really feel up to making my favorite mac 'n cheese sauce, even if it would have tasted better.

I also cooked the pasta in my rice cooker, but that's not a thing you have to do. I've just been cooking everything in my rice cooker lately because it's kind of awesome, and it was so much easier to use it than to boil the pasta on the stove. (Side note: I love my rice cooker. It has a steamer tray so I can cook meat and veggies with my rice. Full meal, no added effort, what's not to love?)
I added some spinach to the pasta because... I couldn't bring myself not to add a little green. It in no way balances out the complete unhealthiness of the pie, but at least you get something good with it. You could also add some broccoli or zucchini, or skip the green stuff all together. I won't tell.

Assembling the pie couldn't be easier. Just press the puff pastry into a pie plate. Mix together the pasta, sauce, some shredded cheese, onion, and cooked spinach and put it all in the pie plate. Take 8 strips of bacon and lay it on top, basket weave style. I folded the edges of the pastry over the ends of the bacon to prevent any grease from dripping into the oven, then I baked it up.
How does it taste? It's macaroni and cheese with bacon in puff pastry. You really can't go wrong here. It it the absolute ultimate in comfort food. The cheesy pasta, the buttery pastry, the salty bacon, so many carbs it puts you in a coma, but the good kind.

One thing is that it kind of falls apart when it's warm, so you'll want to let it cool completely before slicing. I thought about putting an egg in as a binder, but I totally forgot to buy eggs when I was at the store, so I don't know if that would make much of a difference. You can warm up the individual slices to serve, or you could just eat it cold. I actually really like it cold. I know, I'm weird.
As a bonus, I remembered that I had a pi silicone ice cube tray, but since I wasn't making a dessert and couldn't really use chocolate, I was stumped as to how I could use it. I thought maybe I could pour some melted butter in the molds, but a random pat of butter on top of the pie seemed weird. Then I thought about using some of the cheese sauce and freezing it, but I wasn't sure how well that would work. Then I thought, why not just melt some cheddar and try that? And it worked perfectly.

All you do is heat the cheese in the microwave for 20-30 seconds, until it's melted. Then you just pinch off a bit and press it into the mold. Chill the refrigerator until set (between 30-60 minutes), then pop it straight out. I greased the mold first, but since the melted cheddar was pretty greasy itself, I don't know how necessary that really is. I'll just have to try it again (buy ALL the ice cube trays!).
And that's all there is to making an epic pie for an epic Pi Day. Nerd food at its finest.

Mac 'n Cheese Pie
Yield: 1 9inch pie (6-8 servings)

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
8 oz. elbow macaroni
2 cups packed fresh spinach
1¼ cups cheese sauce
1 heaping cup shredded cheddar cheese
¼ cup diced red onion*
8 slices of bacon

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Press the puff pastry into a 9 inch pie plate and trim off the excess. Prick the pastry a few times along the bottom with a fork.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions, for 1-2 minutes less than recommended. Drain and return to the pot. Stir in the cheese sauce and spinach. Heat on low while stirring, until the spinach is wilted. Remove from heat and stir in the shredded cheese and diced onion.

Spread the pasta evenly into the prepared pastry. Place the bacon on top (4 strips vertically, 4 strips horizontally) and weave in a basket weave pattern (1 over, 1 under). Tuck the ends of the bacon into the pie. Fold up the edges of the pastry over the bacon to prevent grease runoff.

Bake for 15-25 minutes, until the bacon is cooked through and the pastry is golden brown (tent the edges with foil if it starts to brown too quickly). Allow to cool before slicing.

*If using a cheese sauce that already has onion, feel free to skip

Recipe inspired by Buzzfeed

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