Monday, 24 September 2012

Mac & Cheese Mondays: Spicy Mac & Cheese

To admit that I'm a planner is, like - the understatement of the year.

I like knowing when things are going to happen - that way I can brace myself for the bad (but when are those types of things EVER planned?) or delight in the excitement of the good.

Organisation like that helps keep my sanity well intact.

I don't, as a general rule, like surprises. 

Well, if it was a "you're adorable - here's a gazillion dollars" kind of surprise - that I'd be okay with.

I don't like unexpected visits at home, because I like to be prepared to treat my guests well and make sure that I have clean clothes on and that I brush my teeth.  Oh - and that I have snacks and drinks and can generally spoil those who walk through my door.

Enter my Mom.

The weekend of my niece's 3rd birthday, Mom told me that she would come to my place on Thursday afternoon and we'd have a little visit before my Dad flew in from work later that afternoon.

What she FAILED to tell me was that they were not, in fact, driving on to my brother's home three hours away as I though they would be, but staying overnight at MY house.

So there I was - with dough, sauce, and sorbet to make for dinner the next night - and nothing prepared to feed my folks THAT night.

I'd had this Spicy Mac recipe sitting out on my desk for weeks and weeks and decided to roll with it.  We'd have it with smokies and call it a day.

Of course, just to throw me on my head, my Mom cried out "Don't make that one!  Make the good one you made last time!". 

She didn't really cry out. 

But I think she always freaks out a little bit when I test new recipes on her.

A few hours later - she would be singing a different tune.

As usual. 

I hate to toot my own horn or whatever - but I haven't had a lot of misses in the ole kitchen lately.

Well - one.  My armhair is still growing back.

Alright - on with the spicy mac.

Cook the pasta and set aside.

Melt a little butter in a frying pan and add in chopped jalapeno, roasted red pepper, and onion.  Cook until soft and smelling delish.

In a pot, melt some more butter.  Then add in flour and stir.  Then add the milk and cook until thickened.  Add the spices.

Add the cheese and stir until melted.

I know I'm missing a bit chunk of pictures here, but it's because my Dad was going, "Heather, come look at this.  Heather, read this.  Heather, pay attention to me."

It is really distracting!

Okay.  Let me segue a little bit here.

I'm not sure what my problem is - but I always have a problem with colby jack cheese and monterey jack cheese.  The recipe calls for a colby jack cheese.  I looked for it - it was not to be found.  The recipe calls for pepper jack cheese - I used monterey pepper jack - that's probably right.  Right?

Now.  Why do I always get bent out of shape about these two cheeses?  Sometimes I can find colby jack.  Sometimes I can't.  Sometimes I can find monterey jack.  Sometimes I can't. 

It's incredibly irritating.

Does anyone have any suggestions?  Anyone?  Help!?

I subbed in extra cheddar for the colby jack and went about my business.

Annnnd - forget that little outburst.

Add the sauteed vegetables, stir in the pasta and put the whole works into a large casserole dish.... 

I need some more baking dishes.  This one is supposed to be two quarts and it was BARELY big enough.

Annie's recipe calls for bread to be ripped up and tossed around in a food processor until it's crumbly, but I couldn't be bothered to buy bread (cause I was ticked off about the cheese thing - TWO STORES and nothing!!!) so I used the panko crumbs I had in my pantry.

Then bake the whole works at 375 degrees F for 25 minutes.  And talk your Dad out of making you scan a zillion pieces of paper one at a time because you'd MUCH rather visit with them and the scanning would take all freaking night.

And thank him profusely for using the devil's invention, also known as the barbecue.  Which burned off all your arm hair the last time you used it.

Oh wait.  That was my arm.

This mac and cheese was AWESOME!  It had just the right amount of heat and the perfect spices.  It was almost like the jalapeno mac and cheese that I had at Famous Dave's in Montana - but not quite....  It was JUST as good.

Serve with smokies - trust me - they paired together perfectly.

Annie - you totally struck gold with this recipe!!!

And my nervous Mother's response?  "Okay, I don't mind that you didn't make the other mac and cheese - this one is fantastic!"

I'm not sure why she doubts me.

I think she's still having recurring nightmares about when I attempted by first batch of homemade buns and they turned out raw.

My Dad didn't have a response - he was too busy stuffing his face.

Which means it was delicious!

Thank you Annie!!!!

This is the Cane girl - signing off.

Spicy Mac & Cheese

4 cups pasta (I used plain old macaroni)
1/3 cup onion, finely chopped
1/3 cup roasted red pepper, finely chopped
1 - 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely minced
6 1/2 tablespoons butter, divided
4 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 1/2 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
8 ounces colby jack cheese, shredded
4 ounces pepper jack cheese, shredded
4 ouces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
4 ounces crusty Italian bread, torn into large chunks (panko crumbs also work well)
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Grease a 2 quart casserole dish and set aside.
  2. Cook pasta according to package directions for al dente.
  3. Melt 1/2 tablespoon of butter over medium heat in a small frying pan.
  4. Add the onion, red pepper, and jalapeno to the pan and cook about 5 to 7 minutes until tender and fragrant.  Remove from heat and set aside.
  5. In a large pot, melt 4 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat.  Whisk in the flour and, stirring constantly, cook until the mixture is a light golden brown color and starts to foam.  About 2 minutes.
  6. Add the milk gradually and stir until bubbling and thickened, about 5 minutes.
  7. Reduce heat to medium low and add in the spices. 
  8. Add the cheeses a handful at a time until totally melted.  Remove from heat.
  9. Add the cooked vegetables and pasta and stir until all the pasta is coated.
  10. Pour the pasta mixture into the greased casserole dish.
  11. In the bowl of a food processor with the blade attachment, add the bread and pulse into coarse crumbs.
  12. In a large bowl, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and stir in the bread crumbs.  Stir to coat all the crumbs.
  13. Sprinkle the crumb mixture over top of the pasta mixture.
  14. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, until the edges are bubbling and the bread crumbs are golden brown.
Source:  Annie's Eats


  1. It was delish - also, I feel I must point out to you that I am not "nervous" - at least not about food - there is always toast and peanut butter if something is completely inedible. Or a fried egg sandwich. Or bacon and tomato sandwiches. !!!! Did you hear about the projected bacon shortage????? I'm going to have to stock up - good thing your Dad didn't get that elk. AND it won't just be bacon - it's going to be lovely pork tenderloin too.....

    1. If you'll excuse me - I'm going to buy 20 pounds of bacon to tide me over.