June 5, 2013 10:11:12 AM
Casseroles have never really had much of a place in my culinary repertoire. It's a time thing mostly. I'd rather sear something off in a few minutes than stand around while it slowly bakes.
I've also never been much of a fan of dishes in which everything sort of just oozes together. Though I wasn't a picky eater as a child -- and I never suffered from the foods-can't-touch syndrome -- I am the sort of guy who likes to eat one food at a time, usually saving the best for last. Hey, we all have our little compulsions. That's mine.
But this doesn't mean I'm blind to the appeal of a casserole bubbling away in the oven. There are many solid reasons so many home cooks favor them. So I decided to challenge myself to come up with a casserole that I could get behind. In true casserole fashion, it needed to be richly satisfying, a true comfort food.
And to satisfy my inclination to save the best part of the meal for last, every part of the casserole needed to qualify as potentially the best.
What I came up with isn't the healthiest dinner I can imagine, but it was unbelievably delicious. And it is so worth it. I ended up with a three-layer casserole that begins with a bed of thinly sliced and roasted sweet potatoes. The potatoes then are topped with a tangy-sweet mess of pulled pork. The final layer is a three-cheese macaroni and cheese with Parmesan-breadcrumb topping.
Like I said, every part of this dish needed to be the best. You will not regret making this.
MAC AND CHEESE PULLED PORK CASSEROLE
Start to finish: 1 1/2 hours (30 minutes active)
Makes 8 servings
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
2 medium sweet potatoes
2 pounds pork tenderloin, cut into 2-inch chunks
13 1/2-ounce bottle barbecue sauce
1 to 2 tablespoons cider vinegar, to taste
8 ounces elbow pasta
1/4 cup creme fraiche
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese
Hot sauce, to taste
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted