Over the past few months I’ve had the pleasure of spending some quality time with barbecue legend Chef Paul Kirk. In case you’re unfamiliar with Paul’s work, he’s a world renowned chef and has won over 475 cooking and barbecue awards (including 7 world championships and the American Royal Open), written 7 barbecue books, operates the Baron’s School of Pitmasters, serves on the Kansas City Barbecue Society’s board of directors, and was inducted into the KCBS Barbecue Hall of Flame in 1990. Needless to say this man knows his ‘que, and has long been one of my favorite barbecue authors.
Every year one of my favorite local barbecue supply stores has a late night pre-Christmas sale. It’s become a mini tradition for my dad and I to head out there and see what kind of bargains we can take advantage of. This year though, much to our surprise, Chef Paul Kirk was in attendance signing copies of his various books. I’ve actually met Paul a few different times (he’s a HUGE bacon fan), but it was great to introduce my dad to one of the all time barbecue legends. We all chit-chatted for a bit, snapped a few photos, and asked Paul to sign a copy of one of his books.
In case you have a hard time reading the image, Paul wrote “Jason, it’s been a pleasure meeting and talking bacon with you! Enjoy! Paul Kirk, K.C. Baron of Barbecue”. Paul’s books have long been a cornerstone in my barbecue library, so I’m very happy to have a personalized autographed version resting in the bookshelf. He currently has 6 books in circulation on Amazon, and they all come highly recommended!
Lucky for all you bacon fans out there, Paul got wind that I was planning to write about him and decided to reach out and personally contribute to the article. Since we share the same passion for bacon, he offered up a bacon filled recipe that’s sure to keep you warm this winter.
Chef Paul Kirk’s Bacon Mac & Cheese
3 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
12 ounces Elbow pasta
4 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk, or half and half divided
2 cups finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1 teaspoon Louisiana hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 pound apple or hickory smoked bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
Bring 6 quarts water and 1 tablespoon salt to a boil. Add pasta; cook 8 minutes or until al dente; drain.
Combine flour and 1/2 cup milk in a saucepan, with a wire whisk, over medium heat. Gradually add 1 cup milk; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat; let stand 4 minutes or until it cools to 155° degrees F. Stir in 1 1/2 cups cheese. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt, onions, hot sauce, pepper, and bacon; stir. Add pasta; toss.
Spoon into a 2-quart broiler-safe dish coated with cooking spray; top with 1/2 cup cheese. Broil 7 minutes.
Yield: 6 servings