Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Spicy Mac and Cheese Dinner

Ingredients: 2.5 cups of milk (whole or 2%), 4 tablespoons of butter, 4 tablespoons of flour, 4 ounces of grated pepper jack cheese, 2 cups of cooked pasta ( I used shells), 2 cups of sliced mushrooms, 2 cups of chopped broccoli, 1.5 cups of diced leftover chicken, 1/4 cup of bread crumbs, 1/4 cup of Parmesan Cheese, spice blend, salt & pepper
My spice blend: 1 teaspoon each: aleppo pepper, cayenne pepper, hot paprika & black pepper.

Preheat Oven to 350 and spray a baking dish with oil or wipe down with butter.

Boil the pasta in salted water according to package directions and saute the mushrooms in a skillet with a little butter or olive oil.

Meanwhile start your Bechamel Sauce.  In a medium sauce pan melt down the butter until nice and foamy.

 While your butter is melting heat up your milk in the microwave or on the stove top almost to a boil.  Add your flour to the melted butter and whisk constantly.  When the flour-butter mix turns a nice sandy brown then start to add in your milk.

Keep whisking!  Bring the mix up to a boil and then turn down the heat to low.  Add in the shredded cheese & spice blend.  Whisk away - don't stop.  Your cheese sauce should be nice and thick now.  Keep stirring for a few minutes and then add in the cooked mushrooms.  Cook an additional 3 minutes.

Mix together your drained pasta, cheese sauce, chopped up chicken and broccoli.  Pour into a oven safe baking dish.  I used one of the round glass Pyrex dished that has a lid.  Mix together the Parmesan and bread crumbs.  Sprinkle over the top of the mac and cheese.

Bake for 1 hour at 350.

Making your own cheese sauce sounds a bit complicated but it's really not.  I got this in the oven in slightly less than 30 minutes.  If you are still freaked out by making your own bechamel you could cheat and used some canned cream of mushroom soup.  I'd still heat it up and melt in some cheese.

If you suck it up and learn out to make bechamel you can make so many other wonderful sauces.  It's one of the core sauces in French cuisine.  Besides, if you ever find your self home with just a little bit of milk, butter, flour and some cheese hunks left over in the fridge you are on your way to making some kick ass home mac and cheese.  Scour the freezer and pantry for some great additions.  I love adding crushed canned tomatoes or frozen peas to basic mac and cheese.  This is my go to dinner when I'm trying to raid the leftover's before I go grocery shopping again.

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