Thursday, December 15, 2016

My "Growed Up" Mac and Cheese

While many of us enjoy stews, soups and chili to warm us on those cool winter evenings, why not heat things up with my spicy "growed up" mac and cheese?  Loaded with smoked white cheddar, fontina and mozzarella cheeses, andouille sausage, garlic and finely chopped onion, along with some finely diced pickled jalapenos, and the roux was made with Mexican beer, ergo the "growed up" title. 

Let me tell you how I made it. By-the-way, this is not my first mac and cheese recipe.  I have at least two more in prior posts from years back. 

Here is my ingredients list:
1/4 medium-sized yellow onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
2 rounded tablespoons pickled jalapenos, diced
1 cup grated Fontina cheese
1 cup grated smoked white cheddar cheese
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
1 rounded teaspoon dried or fresh oregano
salt and pepper
2-3 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup Mexican beer (I used Tecate)
2 tabs butter
1/2 cup whole milk (I usually use buttermilk)
2 large links Andouille sausage, chopped into chunks
1 pound campanelle pasta (bell-shaped pasta)

1+ cup panko breadcrumbs
2 rounded tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil or melted butter

In a large skillet over medium-high heat and with two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (or whatever oil you wish; grape seed oil is wonderful for this), saute the Andouille until crispy. That crust is flavor, amazing flavor. Add the onion, diced pickled jalapenos and garlic to the saute for three minutes.  Remove the skillet from the heat and set aside. 

Now, in a high-sided pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat, add three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and two tabs butter, a little salt, pepper and crushed or fresh oregano (you can do both; who is going to care?).  You might even want to see about adding the Andouille renderings (I did! and how delicious!) and the flour once the butter has melted.  Vigorously stir the flour to make the roux.  Add the milk and beer and continue to rigorously stir.  When the sauce begins to reduce and thicken, add a good handful of mozzarella cheese and stir until it has melted.  Continue adding handfuls of cheese and stir until it has melted thoroughly.  

Meanwhile, add four to six quarts of water to a large pot and bring it to a roiling boil.  Once the water boils, liberally add salt to the water and add the campanelle pasta.  Stir vigorously to prevent the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pot. It should be done to al dente in about eight minutes. Strain the pasta, keep a half or so cup of pasta water and add the pasta to the cheesy goodness directly. Do not let too much water escape!  Use the reserved pasta water to loosen the cheesy mixture if needed. This will help the cheesy bechamel stick to the grooves and bell of the pasta, which is exactly why I chose it. Now, add the sausage, onion and garlic mixture to the bechamel. Again, work those arm muscles and incorporate that into the mix.  

Once the pasta and the cheese have been thoroughly incorporated, add the mixture to whichever form of baking device you wish to use.  I have made it in a flat baking pan as well as my Aunt's antique glass bowls.  This time, I used the bowl, which I'd sprayed with non-stick spray before baking. 

Top the mac and cheese mixture with a mix of mozzarella and parmesan.  I used a garlic parm. 
Top that with a mixtutre of Panko bread crumbs and grated parmesan cheese, along with a little oregano. I love oregano and with this spicy theme, I think it goes perfectly.  Add a drizzle of evoo and/or melted butter to the bread crumbs and bake at 375-degrees for about twenty minutes, until the crust is golden brown.  To kick it up a knotch (you know, the "Bam!" thing) I added dollops of Harissa, which gave it an amazing garlicky, tangy heated flavor.  

Oven Ready!

Once again, bake at 375-degrees for about twenty minutes. what it should look like when done.....

Serve in bowls with whatever garnishes you love best.  This is hot, spicy and will warm every part of you.  

My gentle viewers, as always, Thank You for your time and consideration.  Now, go cook for someone you love!

In-House Cook