Recently the stars and planets were aligned just right and so I made a big batch of macaroni and cheese. A big batch and a smaller one, actually.
You see, Alex doesn't like macaroni and cheese. Not the kind in the box. Not the kind I make. Doesn't matter - he just doesn't like it.
(I will not eat it from a box,
I will not eat it with my socks
I do not like macaroni and cheese,
Don't make me eat it, Mommy, please!)
Anyway, that night, Alex was going to be sleeping over a friend's house. AND, at the same time, our nephew, Calvin, was going to be sleeping at our house because Bill was taking him skiing/snowboarding the next morning. And Calvin DOES like macaroni and cheese. Yay!
So I started looking through this book Bill got me a few years ago called, amazingly enough, Macaroni & Cheese - 52 Recipes from Simple to Sublime, by Joan Schwartz.
I've used one recipe a bunch of times, because it's very quick and simple and on the mild and kid-friendly side. Julia adores it. I like to mess around with it, though, and swap in some cheddar or something in place of all the American cheese it calls for. I'll add a splash of wine, or I'll use some chicken stock in place of some of the milk...whatever the contents of the fridge dictate.
I think I made one other recipe from the book at some point in the past, but I can't remember which one.
So I thought it was time to check out some of the other recipes. I figured odds were good Julia would like whatever I made, and probably so would Bill and Calvin.
There were a few that caught my eye (LOBSTER!), and a couple that were on the spicy side, which, I discovered as I flipped the pages, was what I'd been looking for, and so I kind of went with the "Mac and Smoked Cheddar with Ham and Chipotles" except that I ended up changing a bunch of things as I went along and kind of ended up with my own thing.
So here's what I did.
First, I got a big pot of water going on the stove. When it came to a boil (which was at some point during the making of the cheesy sauce part) I added salt, added a pound of pasta, and cooked that until it was al dente. I also preheated the oven to 400 degrees F.
Second, I buttered a 13 x 9" baking dish and a round, 8" Le Crueset baking dish.
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, in addition to what you used to greast the pans
6 tablespoons flour
2 3/4 cups milk (I used 2%, you could use whole)
6 oz smoked gouda, shredded or cut into small pieces
7 oz cheddar, shredded or cut into small pieces
1 cup diced smoked turkey
1 7-oz can chipotles in adobo sauce
About 1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs to sprinkle on top of the macaroni and cheese
About 1/2 cup (or more) shredded cheese (i had part of a bag of asiago blend shredded cheese) to sprinkle on top
Now, originally I was just going to puree the chipotles in the adobo sauce and add it all in, but my husband and nephew were going to be getting up super early to drive 3 hours and go skiing and snowboarding the next day, so I didn't want them to suffer any...um...repurcussions from all the pepper seeds. So I pressed the contents of the can through a strainer, like so. (If they hadn't had a trip planned, I'd have left the seeds in.)
And here's what I got:
I put 2 pots on the stove. In the larger one, I started melting my butter.
And then I whisked like a wild woman until I had a nice, smooth, liquid.
At some point, depending on when you started your pasta water boiling, your pasta will be cooked and ready to drain. Put a collander in the sink, dump the pasta in, and get back to the whisking. Your pasta will be fine there for a short time.
Yum. Now, add in the smoked turkey.
Stir to combine, and then add salt and pepper to taste. Why now? I was planning to portion out some for Julia, if you remember, so I wanted to make sure it tasted right before I added the chipotle/adobo puree.
Stir well, so all the cheesy goodness completely coats the pasta.
I used about a third of this mixture for Julia's non-spicy portion, which went into the smaller pan.
Then I added my chipotle puree to the remainder, still in the pot, and mixed that in.
Then I poured all of that into the larger pan.
I sprinkled the rest of my bread crumbs on top of each pan of pasta, and then topped them with the shredded cheese. And into the oven they went!
Then I had my Little Red Hen moment of "Who will help me do the dishes?" And when no one answered (because they were all downstairs, playing Wii bowling or something) I did them myself.
Bake until the cheese sauce is bubbly and the tops are turning golden brown. It took about half an hour. Let the pans sit for about ten minutes or so to both cool down a bit before serving.
Color is awful in the next few pictures - please forgive me. I had the wrong camera setting.
Anyway, here is Julia's...
I served some to Julia...
The verdict? Very positive, from everyone. Well, Julia didn't eat much of hers. Turns out she ate a whole (small) bag of potato chips before dinner, and apparently no one saw her do this, so no one stopped her. Hm. But she had some the next day for lunch and polished it off in no time, so I'd say that's a thumb's up from her.
The spicy version was really nice - enough smoke from the turkey and gouda to complement the heat from the chipotle puree. And the heat was pleasant and very delicious and not overwhelming. The cheese kind of balances that out anyway.
I'd like to make this again and include the seeds, just for comparison's sake. I'll let you know how that goes.