Irish stout, cheese and ham elevates an ordinary mac and cheese


By Jim Bailey
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I realize St. Patrick’s Day is over, but this macaroni and cheese dish truly should be on everyone’s table, no matter what day or time of year. When you add Irish ham (found universally in most supermarkets) and Irish cheddar cheese (again, frequently found) you have some great flavors working that you don’t ordinarily enjoy.

An Irish macaroni and cheese to please all.

An Irish macaroni and cheese to please all.


1/2 bunch kale
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1-1/2 cups cubed, smoked ham, Irish if possible
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter or margarine, cubed
1/2 cup Guinness, Murphy’s or Beamish stout
2 cups macaroni
1/4 cup flour
2 1/2 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
8 ounces Irish Cheddar cheese, shredded

Preheat the oven to 350-degrees F. Rinse and dry kale leaves, cutting out the tough, center stalks. Tear them into bite-sized pieces and toss them with the olive oil and 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese in a bowl. Place them in a pan and bake for 8 to 9 minutes, or until crispy, browned but not burnt. Keep an eye on them: Some may crisp up faster than others so remove the crisp ones while continuing to cook the remainder. Remove from the oven while preparing rest of the recipe. Leave oven on.

In a medium skillet, over medium heat, add the cubed ham and 2 tablespoons butter. Cook ham, stirring frequently, until lightly browned, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add stout and continue cooking and stirring until liquid has almost entirely evaporated, about another 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat; set aside.

Cook macaroni according to package directions; drain and set aside but do not rinse. In a large saucepan, melt remaining butter over low heat; when melted, whisk in the flour until smooth. Raise heat to medium and add milk and pepper, whisking well. Continue cooking,  frequently whisking until thickened, about 2 minutes. Add cheese, whisking until melted; remove from heat. Add the macaroni, ham and remainder of Parmesan cheese, stirring to combine. Transfer to a 2-quart baking dish and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until bubbling. Serve with the crispy kale thrown on top of each serving.
Serves 3

Yankee Chef book cover

Schiffer Books of Pennsylvania has released Jim Bailey’s new book The Yankee Chef: Feel Good Food for Every Kitchen. It contains more than 550 traditional New England comfort-food recipes tweaked for today’s palates with hundreds of kitchen tips and food facts. The hardback book is 312 pages and contains 200 color images. Its ISBN is 978-0-7643-4191-5 and the cost is $34.99. The book can be ordered through Misty Valley Books, 802-875-3400.

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Filed Under: The Yankee Chef

About the Author: Jim Bailey is a third generation Yankee Chef, New England food historian and newspaper columnist. His first cookbook, simply titled The Yankee Chef, has been published. He welcomes all feedback, questions or comments at

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