Dinosaur Bar-B-Que's Mac and Cheese

A few weeks ago The Democrat and Chronicle ran the recipe for macaroni and cheese from a local restaurant, the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. I took one look at it and said "no way." It had loads and loads and cheese -- four kinds of them in all. It looked like a heart attack waiting to happen.

But the recipe kept calling my name. First, it had been featured on Good Morning America as Sam Champion's favorite macaroni and cheese. And it came from the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, which is a very popular restaurant here (there are also locations in Syracuse and New York City). I've only been there once or twice, but I remember the food being excellent and the atmosphere fun (it often has live music, mostly blues). I've also had some of their catered food and it's been heads and shoulders above most catered food I've had.

The recipe also intrigued me from a culinary perspective. It had onions and green pepper in it, which are ordinarily a problem for a couple of my household's eaters. But in this recipe, the onions and green peppers were pureed into the sauce. It's not a technique I've used a lot, and I wondered how it would taste. I was also curious to see how that would fly with my husband and son. Was pureeing an option if I wanted to get some flavors into a dish without having it rejected at a glance?

The answer is yes. We all thought the recipe was divine. It was positively decadent -- super rich and ultra cheesy, without the distractions of bits of veggies floating around or extraneous bread crumbs on top.

I won't make this often because it is a nutritional disaster, but I'll probably make it again, most likely for guests. I made half of the recipe that ran in the newspaper, and it was plenty for the four of us. (Two of us ate it as a main dish, and two of us had it as a side dish). Because it's so rich, I would suggest serving it as a side dish -- there would be plenty for six people. If you wanted it not to be quite so rich, you probably could increase the amount of macaroni in it.

Dinosaur Bar-b-Que's Mac 'n' Cheese
(1/2 of the printed recipe, with a few modifications from me)

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
3/4 cup onion, diced
1/3 cup green pepper, diced
1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic (1 clove)
2 ounces flour (about a scant 1/2 cup)
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
7 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded - divided use
2 1/2 ounces Colby cheese, shredded
5 ounces American cheese, shredded (I cubed slices of American cheese)
2 ounces Pecorino Romano, shredded - divided use
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon French's mustard
1 teaspoon white vinegar
3/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
3/4 pounds elbow macaroni (you could go up to 1 pound to make it serve more/less rich)


4 ounces of shredded cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon Pecorino Romano cheese

Heat oil in a large pot. Add onions and peppers; cook until onions are translucent. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Stir in flour. Add water and half-and-half. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Using an immersion blender, puree this mixture until it is smooth (if using a regular blender, work in batches, filling the pitcher only half-full, since the liquid will be hot). Slowly add cheeses to warm pureed mixture, making sure all cheese is melted before adding more. (If the cheese isn't melting, return the pot to low heat and stir constantly.) Once cheese is completely melted, add salt, lemon pepper, sugar, mustard, vinegar and Tabasco. Stir to combine.

Cook dried elbow macaroni in boiling water, according to manufacturer's instructions. Cook until al dente, not completely soft.

Combine hot, cooked pasta and sauce in the large pot; stir well to combine. Pour entire mixture into a greased 11-inch-by-7-inch pan (a 9 by 9 probably would work as well). Top with half of the shredded cheddar cheese and half of the Pecorino Romano cheese.

Place under broiler until top is golden brown and bubbling. (Because I was cooking something else at 450 degrees, I cooked it at that temperature, and it was fine.) Serve immediately.