Mexican Mac and Cheese
My roommate turned 30 this past Sunday. I got him a fancy briefcase because 30-year-old men should not carry brightly colored computer bags to work. I also gave him the gift of Mexican Mac and Cheese.
Just to give you a little background, I promised Logan last month that I would make him whatever ridiculous food item he could think of for his birthday. This was risky, since Logan spends a significant portion of his daily life thinking about disturbingly unhealthy food creations, and I wouldn’t put it past him to demand something like a deep-fried, pizza-wrapped bacon cheeseburger. I mean, the dude asks me to make him homemade meat lover’s Hot-Pockets on average days, so who knows what craziness he could dream up for this special occasion.
Logan did send me a flurry of “inspiration texts” a couple weeks ago, mostly involving screenshots of barbecue from some of the many establishments that he follows on Instagram, but then he seemed to forget about choosing his birthday feast. When I asked him a few days ago if he had decided on something, he said that he had not, but it would be really great if I could just surprise him with some sort of meat sandwich, preferably with buns made out of macaroni and cheese. “You know, like giant mac and cheese nuggets, but with like a burger or something in the middle.” Oh, sure.
Luckily, I did not have to make giant mac and cheese nuggets (which would have been quite dangerous sans deep-fryer) because Logan found something he wanted more. This is where the Mexican Mac and Cheese comes in.
Logan’s 30th birthday party took place this past Saturday at a festive little joint in Soho called Mexican Radio. I stumbled across this gem after calling approximately 25 Mexican and barbecue restaurants in NYC and asking if they could a.) accommodate 34 people for dinner, and b.) guarantee that those 34 people would not be kicked out after they consumed large quantities of alcohol and things inevitably got weird. Jon at Mexican Radio was the only brave soul to answer “yes” to both questions, so his restaurant was the lucky host of Logan’s Dirty 30. Que fiesta!
When I asked Logan if he wanted me to bring a birthday cake to dinner, he told me that would not be necessary. Instead, he said that he wanted an order of their Mexican Mac and Cheese with candles in it. I was not in any way surprised by this request, and I promised him that I would take care of it. Unfortunately, girlfriend had a few margaritas and forgot to ask the waitress for Logan’s mac and cheese “cake.” He ended up with the restaurant’s famous fried ice cream, which although dank, was not what the birthday boy wanted.
Obviously, Logan overlooked the missing mac and cheese in the moment, as he was too busy fiesta-ing to care about “dessert.” However, I should have known that I wouldn’t get off that easily, since Logan is like an elephant when it comes to food. He never forgets. So, when he woke up on Sunday afternoon and reminded me that he had not received his Mexican Mac and Cheese, I offered to make it for him myself. After all, I owed him a crazy birthday meal, and it was a lot easier than the previously mentioned mac and cheese buns. Logan was very much on board.
The epic nature of the resulting Mexican Mac and Cheese is actually difficult to put into words. Honestly, it may be the best Mac and Cheese I have ever made (although this will always be my personal favorite). Tender pasta shells loaded with corn, chorizo, peppers, jalapenos, black beans and Mexican spices, swimming in a creamy, chipotle-laced cheese sauce? It’s nothing short of a full-blown flavor fiesta in your mouth. And with its crispy exterior and cheesy, meat-and-vegetable-laden interior, this badass creation is a textural wonderland. Straight fire, folks.
I highly recommend adding Mexican Mac and Cheese to your repertoire and serving it to everyone you know ASAP, since it’s the type of compliment-inducing recipe that will make people become creepily obsessed with you. I imagine it would be very well received at all of your weird football parties or Sunday night dinners this season. It also makes the perfect creative side dish for almost any type of chicken, steak or pork. If you want to get really dirty, I’d try it alongside pulled chicken sliders with bacon-queso guacamole or easy pulled pork sandwiches.
Needless to say, my roommate almost blacked out from excitement upon taking his first bite of Mexican Mac and Cheese. I’m proud to report that there were many appreciative grunts, expletives, and even some rather uncharacteristic clapping involved. The Dude ate two giant bowls of it before giving himself heartburn, making me promise not to throw out the leftovers, and promptly passing out, so I’d call it a win.
Blogger’s Note: To avoid any confusion, dudes, this Mac and Cheese is NOT Dude Diet approved. I am already anticipating several of you blissfully crushing this on the reg, claiming that you thought this was a Dude Diet post. Don’t do that. In the grand scheme of things, Mexican Mac and Cheese isn’t too terrible for you (I did use 1% milk, plenty of veggies, and whole wheat Panko), but this recipe definitely falls into the No-Calorie Sunday/“Weird Birthday Wish” category. Please indulge responsibly.
Mexican Mac and Cheese: (Serves 4)
2½ cups medium pasta shells, uncooked
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 ounces chorizo or spicy chicken/turkey sausage of your choice, diced
1 ear of corn, kernels removed
½ yellow onion, diced
½ red bell pepper, diced
½ green bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
½ cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 cups 1% milk
¾ cup shredded Monterey Jack, divided
1¼ cup shredded sharp cheddar, divided
1 chipotle pepper in adobo, minced
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon Mexican chili powder
¼ cup whole wheat Panko bread crumbs
For garnish: (optional)
2 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro
1 jalapeno, thinly sliced
Preparing your Mexican Mac and Cheese:
-Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.
-Cook pasta according to package directions. Set aside.
-While your pasta is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large cast iron skillet or pan. When hot, add your corn and sausage. Sauté for 5 minutes until the corn is cooked through and the sausage is lightly browned.
-Add the onion, bell peppers and jalapenos to the pan. Cook for another 4 minutes until the vegetables are just tender.
-Stir in the black beans and pasta shells and remove the mixture from the heat. Set aside while you make your badass spicy cheese sauce.
-Start by making a roux. (Chillax, a roux is just butter and flour). Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. When it’s melted and bubbling slightly, whisk in the flour. Cook your roux, whisking constantly for 2-3 minutes.
-Add the milk to your roux and cook, whisking constantly, until thickened. Don’t panic if your sauce doesn’t thicken right away, it can take 6-8 minutes. When the sauce is thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon, lower the heat and whisk in ½ cup Monterey Jack, 1 cup sharp cheddar, chipotle pepper, cumin, and Mexican chili powder.
-If you cooked your sausage and vegetables in a cast iron skillet or oven safe pan, go ahead and pour the cheese sauce right over the pasta mixture. If not, transfer the pasta mixture to a lightly greased baking pan (I recommend a 9×9-inch) and add the Mexican cheese sauce. Either way, use a spatula to make sure everything is well coated in cheese sauce.
-Top your Mexican Mac and Cheese with the remaining Monterey Jack and cheddar cheeses (¼ cup each) and sprinkle with an even layer of Panko.
-Bake for 30 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbling. Serve garnished with cilantro and jalapenos. Fiesta on, dudes.
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