A Mac & Cheese for All Seasons

Macaroni and cheese is one of my favorite foods, so it’s only fitting that I blog about another mac & cheese recipe for the second time in less than a year. This past summer, I was asked to replicate Crave’s green chile mac and cheese for a friend’s going away party. I don’t think I succeeded, but that wasn’t a complete failure in my book. I think Crave is overrated and overpriced. Their mac and cheese tastes like it has too much Velveeta, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s weird for such a pretentious restaurant (I’ve already expressed my feelings for Crave in a past blog post). I think my mac and cheese tastes more like G2’s, which is one of my favorites. Their mac and cheese is so good, and their waitstaff actually admitted that one of the ingredients was Velveeta cheese (it was hard to pick the flavor out).

My mac and cheese was a hit at the party (or everyone lied to me), so I was asked to make it again for a family gathering this Christmas. This mac & cheese is my version of Cooking Light’s Creamy Four-Cheese Macaroni. I substitute pepper jack for fontina, add green chile, and omit the crushed onion melba snack crackers. I like to roast my green chiles and red bell peppers directly over the open flame of a stovetop burner. Then, I wrap the peppers in a paper towel and place them in a plastic bag to let the skins loosen, allowing them to cool down and make them easier to peel.

Tips: You can add a few more tablespoons of butter to avoid lumps in the sauce. I didn’t want to add more fat, so I strained the sauce in a sieve after it thickened and discarded the flour lumps. You will know when the sauce has thickened when it passes the spoon test. Dip a spoon in the sauce. The sauce should coat the back of the spoon. Run your finger down the back of the spoon. If the line remains, then the sauce is ready.

Holiday or Any Day Mac ‘n Cheese
Yields 8, 1 cup servings

3 quarts water
3 cups uncooked pasta (I used radiatore, Walmart brand)
1 tbsp. butter (optional)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 2/3 cups 1% low-fat milk
¾ cup (3 oz.) shredded pepper jack cheese
½ cup (2 oz.) grated fresh Parmesan cheese, divided
½ cup (2 oz.) shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
3 oz. light processed cheese (such as Velveeta), cubed
3 green chiles, roasted, peeled, and diced (optional)
1 red bell pepper, roasted, peeled, and diced (optional)
¼ tsp. salt
freshly grated nutmeg
freshly ground black pepper
Cooking spray

1. Bring salted water to a rolling boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente, about 5-8 minutes (depending on type of pasta). Drain.
2. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat and add flour, stirring constantly. Cook flour until golden or until fragrant (you want to cook the raw flavor out of the flour).
3. Gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk until blended.  Cook until thickened, about 8-15 minutes, stirring constantly.
4. Strain the sauce if necessary. Return to pot and gradually add cheeses, cooking until completely melted and incorporated. Remove from heat and stir in salt, a few gratings of nutmeg, and freshly ground black pepper, and peppers. Stir in pasta.
5. Spoon mixture into a 2 quart casserole dish, coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle remaining Parmesan cheese over the top. Serve immediately or bake in a 375° oven for 30 minutes or until bubbly.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s