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Charred Broccoli Mac And Cheese

Trail Snacks With Lentine Alexis

A big bowl of mac and cheese is the way to many of our hearts. The only thing better is a from-scratch, one-pot-wonder bowl of mac and cheese. With a little forethought and a little charred broccoli, it’s easy to craft some up-leveled, lo-fi, highly-comforting mac and cheese around the campfire. Simply light your fire (or portable grill) burn your broccoli to perfection, then stir all the usual camp-friendly ingredients together in a big pot.

Charred Broccoli Mac And Cheese

serves 4

With a few steps of prep while at home, this recipe comes together quickly at the campsite for a savory and dressed-up take on classic camp mac and cheese. 

NOTE: this recipe suggests that you use an open fire to char your broccoli. Please pay attention to fire-bans in your area, read more on campfire safety here. If there is a local fire ban, you can easily char your broccoli in a cast-iron skillet over medium to high heat. 

Ingredients

  • 1 large head of broccoli or 3 bunches of broccolini
  • 4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • ¾ cups whole milk, or favorite nut milk
  • 1 ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter or vegan butter 
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 8oz uncooked elbow macaroni or your favorite pasta shape
  • 4 cups shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1-2 tsp dijon mustard OR mustard powder
  • 24 cracks of fresh pepper 
  • Red chili flakes (to finish)

To make this mac gluten-free, simply substitute your favorite gluten-free noodle shape and cook according to package directions. To make your mac vegan, simply substitute your favorite vegan cheese and butter substitutes.

Equipment

  • Portable firepit or portable grill 
  • Camp stove 
  • Fireproof tongs
  • Large spoon for stirring + serving
  • Large pot or deep cast-iron skillet for cooking your mac and cheese
  • Bowls and spoons for serving

Do Ahead At Home

  1. Prep the broccoli. Slice your head of broccoli into large 1” thick “steaks. If you’re using broccolini, slice each piece lengthwise. Place the broccoli in a large zip-top bag to transport to camp and add 2 Tbsp olive oil. Shake the bag to coat, then set aside. Broccoli can be prepped 2 days in advance. If you’re making your mac at home, you can do this step in a large bowl, then cover until ready to use.
  2. Shred the cheese. Shred your cheese and place in a zip-top bag for transport to camp. If you’re making this dish at home, simply place the cheese in a bowl. 
  3. Prep the milk mixture. In a quart jar, combine the milk, water, ¾ tsp salt and 2 Tbsp olive oil. Cover the jar tightly and shake before using. Your milk mixture is now ready to transport to camp. Use within 2 days. 

Directions

  1. Char your broccoli: Light the fire or grill and get the heat up to medium-high. If using a fire-pit or open flame, place a grill grate roughly 4” above the coals or flames. For a portable grill, get the grill grate good and hot! Add your broccoli steaks or broccolini slices over direct heat until the broccoli is good and charred, typically 5-7 minutes. If your broccoli is burning before cooking through, move it to place on the grill where it will receive indirect heat and avoid being licked by flames. When the broccoli is charred to your liking, transfer the veggies to a plate to cool, then slice into bite-sized pieces.
  2. Make your mac: Set up your portable camp stove. In a large pot or cast-iron dutch oven over medium-low heat, melt 2 Tbsp of the butter. Turn the heat up to medium and add the sliced onion, cooking until it’s good and brown – roughly 15 minutes. If the onion begins to burn before it turns translucent, turn the heat back down to medium-low.
  3. When the onion is lovely and caramelized, stir in the broccoli, uncooked pasta and milk mixture. Stir to combine, and bring the mixture to a boil. When a boil is achieved, lower the heat and allow the mac ingredients to simmer – covered – until the pasta is al dente, roughly 7-9 minutes, or per your pasta’s package directions. Avoid the urge to peek at your pasta as lifting the lid during this process will allow steam to escape. The steam is helping to cook your pasta so leave that lid closed!
  4. Serve (and savor) your mac: Serve your mac and cheese immediately by dividing it between bowls. If you’re a meat eater, topping with crispy bacon is a really good idea.

Storage: Place leftovers in an airtight container and consume within the next day. If you’re making your mac and cheese at home, you can freeze the dish for up to two months, then reheat in a 375°F oven for 1 hour, or until melty.

Lentine Alexis is a former professional endurance athlete & classically trained chef. The former Culinary Director at Skratch Labs, she uses a real-food philosophy to create recipes for athletes and everyone looking to eat well and adventure better. Find more recipes and info on her upcoming cookbook for athletes at lentinealexis.com, or follow her @lentinealexis.