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Eric Akis: Rib-sticking Pulled Pork Mac and Cheese a super treat for Game Day

Perfect for Super Bowl-watching, this rich casserole layers cheesy pasta over shredded meat.
Pulled Pork Mac and Cheese Macaroni and cheese baked on a topped of succulent pulled pork. ERIC AKIS

If you’re having friends over to watch the Super Bowl this Sunday, they might be hungry by the time half time rolls around. To sate them, something rib sticking and hearty that goes well with beer or other beverages should suffice. My recipe for pulled pork mac and cheese fits that bill.

To prepare it you, obviously, need to make some pulled pork. It’s not difficult and my process begins by deeply rubbing a pork butt or blade shoulder roast with a seasoning mixture. The pork is then seared in an ovenproof pot, such as Dutch oven, until richly coloured. A barbecue sauce mixture is poured in, the pork is covered, and then slowly braised in the oven until very tender.

The pork is removed from the pot, pulled into shreds, mixed back into barbecue sauce mixture in the pot, and it’s ready to use.

Pork butt or blade shoulder roasts, which are sold at most grocery stores and butcher shops, are cut from the front section of the animal and include parts of the front leg and the section at the top of the leg, “the shoulder.” These cuts are well suited to use for pulled pork because the meat’s fat content causes it to become mouth-wateringly tender and richly flavoured when slowly cooked.

After you made your pulled pork, set it into the bottom of a casserole, completely covered with saucy macaroni and cheese, topped with more grated cheese, and then baked until bubbly and very delicious.

If desired, you could make it oven-ready in advance, refrigerate it, and then bake it when needed. See the Eric’s option part of the recipe for details on that.

Pulled Pork Mac and Cheese

Mac and cheese made even more divine by baking it on top of succulent shreds of pulled pork. You could serve the mac and cheese with a side salad, such as a Caesar salad, green salad or coleslaw.

Preparation time: one hour

Cooking time: About four hours 10 minutes

Makes: six to eight servings

For the pulled pork

1 1/4 cups chicken stock or beer

1 cup barbecue sauce (I used Bull’s-Eye brand)

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 tsp chili powder

2 tsp cumin

1 tsp smoked or regular paprika

• salt and freshly ground black pepper, taste

1 (about 2 3/4 pound/ 1.25 kg) boneless pork butt or blade shoulder roast

2 Tbsp vegetable oil

For the mac and cheese

2 3/4 cups elbow macaroni

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

3 1/4 cups warm 2 per cent or whole milk (divided; see Note)

200 grams extra-old white cheddar cheese, grated (divided)

• salt and ground white pepper, to taste

1/2 tsp smoked or regular paprika

1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 large green onion, halved lengthwise, and then very thinly sliced, widthwise

To make pork, combine stock (or beer), barbecue sauce, vinegar and sugar in a bowl and set aside. In a small bowl, combine chili powder, cumin and 1 tsp paprika. Rub the spice mixture all over the roast. Season the roast with salt and pepper. Preheat oven to 325 F.

Heat oil in a Dutch oven or other ovenproof pot set over medium-high. Add the roast and deeply sear on all sides. Carefully drain away excess fat, and then pour in barbecue sauce mixture and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook the pork in the oven 3 hours, turning once or twice, or until falling apart tender. Remove the pork from the sauce, set in a large bowl and let rest 10 minutes.

After the pork has rested, pull it into shreds with two forks or with your hands protected with kitchen gloves, discarding any large bits of fat or sinew you find. Spoon off and remove as much fat as possible from the surface of the sauce in the pot. Add the shredded pork and mix to combine. Spoon the pork into the bottom of a 13- x 9-inch casserole (mine was 2 1/4-inches tall). Set pork aside until mac and cheese is ready.

To make the mac and cheese, bring a large of pot of salted water to a boil. Add the macaroni, return to a boil and cook until just tender, stirring occasionally, about seven to eight minutes.

While macaroni cooks, melt butter in a medium to large pot set over medium heat (my pot was eight inches wide and six inches tall). Mix in the flour and cook and stir one to two minutes, until well blended.

Dribble and whisk in 3/4 cup of the warm milk. Cook until the mixture is thick. Slowly whisk in the remaining milk. Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently, so the sauce does not scorch the bottom. Cook one minute to thicken, and then remove the white sauce from the heat. Gradually stir three-quarters of the grated cheddar cheese into the white sauce, until it’s just melted and well combined. Season the sauce with salt, white pepper and 1/2 tsp paprika.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Pack down the pulled pork in the baking dish. Using a large spoon or spatula, set and spread the macaroni and cheese on top of the pulled pork, completely covering it. Sprinkle on the remaining cheddar cheese and the Parmesan cheese.

Set the casserole in the oven and bake, uncovered, for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the pork below the mac and cheese is bubbling. Turn the oven to broil, and broil the casserole until it’s a rich golden on top, about one to two minutes. Sprinkle with green onions and serve.

Note: Using warm milk to make the sauce will cause it to thicken more quickly and, thus, be less likely to scorch on the bottom. The milk can be warmed to just below a simmer in the microwave or in a pot on the stove set over medium-low heat.

Eric’s options: This pulled pork mac and cheese can be made oven-ready in advance, cooled to room temperature, covered and stored in the refrigerator for up to a day and baked later. If you do make it in advance, add 1/4 cup more milk to the white sauce, as the macaroni will absorb added moisture as it sits. And allow 10 or so minutes more baking time, as the casserole will be cold when you start to bake it.

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Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.