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Contest sponsored by the Texas Pecan Board

Mark says he and his wife, Kristi, 10-year members of CoServ, have a love of macaroni and cheese and smoky spices and teamed up to develop this recipe. They have a freezer full of pecans, he says, and keep a steady supply of roasted ones around. Their neighbors in McKinney helped them come up with the final version of this rich, creamy dish.

Smokin Pecan Mac N Cheese

1 cup pecans
12 ounces elbow pasta
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons shallots, minced
5 ounces hickory-smoked bacon
1 1/2 tablespoons garlic, minced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 1/2 cups sharp white Cheddar, shredded
2 cups Gouda, shredded
1 1/2 cups shredded smoked Cheddar
1/4 cup chives, chopped (optional)

Toast pecans in 400-degree oven for 5 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Watch carefully and remove if nuts begin to scorch. Remove to plate and let cool. Finely chop 3 tablespoons of pecans. Coarsely chop remaining pecans. Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil and add pasta and pinch of salt. Cook for 7 to 10 minutes. Drain and set aside. Pasta should be slightly firmer than al dente. Add olive oil, shallots, bacon and garlic to heavy pot and sauté for 5 minutes on low heat. Stir in flour and cook for 2 minutes on medium heat, stirring constantly. Slowly stir in heavy cream and bring to boil. Simmer for 10 minutes over low heat, stirring constantly. Add finely chopped pecans, thyme, white pepper, kosher salt and paprika. Stir in white Cheddar and Gouda in four batches, using  figure-eight motion, until smooth. Toss in pasta and thoroughly mix. Pour into 8-x-8-inch baking dish. Top with smoked Cheddar cheese and coarsely chopped pecans. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until bubbly. Garnish with chives if desired.

Servings: 12. Serving size: 1 cup. Per serving: 728 calories, 30 g protein, 50.7 g fat, 32.8 g carbohydrates 2 g dietary fiber, 1,390 mg sodium, 5.6 g sugars, 150 mg cholesterol

Mark and Kristi Vitek, CoServ Electric