Well.. this forum is my go-to resource when I want to create a dish to take to a function, be it Christmas, Easter, or a general pot-luck BBQ. This Saturday my band is having a BBQ to get together and play for fun as opposed to working. I am making a pesto (mortar and pestle only please) but I also am going to do a Mac & Cheese dish. I've thought on it some and this is my plan so far, as always I am welcome to any and all experienced opinions regarding this. For the pasta I am going to go with a larger "shell" style. I plan to boil it in salted water until just shy of al dente so it can finish in the baking. I plan to make a mornay sauce and I have kind of centered on smoked gouda (any recommendations for another melting cheese to pair with it? possibly pecorino romano?) I think thyme is a great herb to pair with cheese so I planned to carefully pick thyme and then mince it. Taking a note from Indian cooking I thought I could use a little oil in a saute pan and perfume the thyme in the oil to release the oils and permeate the oil with the thyme flavor.. I would then incorporate the oil and thyme into the roux for the mornay. Over medium heat I plan to use roughly half butter half oil for the roux, then half and half or heavy cream for the dairy. Once I have a bechemel tightened up I'll turn the heat to low and stir in the grated gouda (and possibly other cheese) The last element I was considering is a classic bread crumb topping. I've thought about it and using simple bread crumbs seems to result in a dry almost chalky topping. What I thought I'd do is find a nice product of buttery seasoned croutons.. then process them in my food processor to create a seasoned butter bread crumb to top .. possibly combining some fine grated parmesan. I've thought about a layer of provolone before putting the bread crumbs on.. to give it a true cheese quality, thoughts on this? Boars Head makes a nice picante provolone. What say ye?