Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Jalapeño Popper Mac 'n' Cheese

For dinner tonight, we worked two types of chiles into one of our favorite pasta dishes... Mac 'n Cheese! Besides the intriguing use of chiles, the method used to make the cheese sauce is definitely not your typical fashion either... let's jump right on in and see what we had to do to turn out this Jalapeño Popper Mac 'n' Cheese!

After we dropped the long, curly pasta called cavatappi (which also conveniently has ridges on it to grab onto the sauce) into the salty sea of boiling water, I had another skillet going to take care of the chiles. The amount may seem excessive once you see your pile from slicing the jalapeños and serranos, but don't be alarmed! The duo won't be added in raw - they are softened first in a slick of oil, along with a couple cloves of garlic, which will help pull their rich chile flavor out and tame their heat levels (though a bit too much in our minds... you'll see in a minute!).

After scooping the chiles and garlic out, we used the same saucepan to create the simple sauce by heating together milk and cubes of cream cheese. Yup, that's all it takes! Well, almost. For a little onion-y bite, a couple tablespoons of dried minced onion are also tossed in - however, if you wanted to use fresh, just grate a bit of onion in. This way you'll end up with mostly juice and tiny bits of onion, which won't end up as crunchy uncooked nuggets. When the cubes of cream cheese have melted in, thickening the mixture to create a velvet-y smooth sauce, it was combined with the now-drained pasta and chiles.

This is a Mac 'n Cheese after all, so you know cream cheese can't be it, right? You know it and another half pound of cheese was added in the form of mild Mexican-blend cheese! Monterey Jack would also be work well (and was originally called for), but I used what we had in the refrigerator. Now, you could have this as is out of the saucepan, but to give the top a bit of color, the cheesy concoction was placed into a dish and set under the broiler for just a few minutes.

So, back to that mound of chiles... did it make this too spicy? Quite the contrary! By removing the seeds and ribs of the chiles, you are left with their potent flavor, yet you won't have to deal with the fiery punch if you would have left them in. However, it almost seemed a bit too mild for us and we would have liked a touch of spiciness - maybe if we chopped one of the chiles whole it would have satisfied our lust for heat? When we go to make this again, there is one more thing I would do different - a crunchy breadcrumb topping (probably using panko) would be an excellent way to dress this up and provide a bit of contrast to the lush creaminess underneath.


  1. Oh, I would love this. I adore poppers.


  3. Bethie - Hope you give it a try then!

    Elmotoo - Yeah!