Monday, June 1, 2015

Fajita Mac and Cheese

Well, as a senior just graduating high school moving away from home for the first time in a few months, I've been trying to savor the homely comforts: AKA mac and cheese. 

In case you didn't know, beef, bell peppers, and cheese are one of my favorite combos, and they make this comfort food even more homely.
Also, with the chilly weather here this week, (winter in June anyone?) baked mac and cheese is just the thing to warm you up.

So there are three perfectly good excuses reasons to eat this mac and cheese. 

Besides, it's delicious.

Noah and the Whale "Shape of My Heart"


  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 small onion, halved
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 whole black peppercorns
  • 1 clove
  • 1/2 pound macaroni
  • 1tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick)unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  •  4 oz jalapeno Jack, grated, divided
  • 8 oz sharp Cheddar, grated
  • Pinch of grated nutmeg
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • lime wedges and tortilla chips for serving


Bring the milk to a simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently to prevent it from boiling over. Add the onion, bay leaves, peppercorns, and cloves to the milk. Allow the milk to steep for 30 minutes. Strain the milk, and discard the solids.

While the milk steeps, preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 13 x 9 inch baking pan. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Cook the pasta until it is just beginning to soften to the al dente stage. Drain the pasta, run it under cold water, and return it to the pot.

Combine the chili powder, paprika, cumin, oregano, and red pepper flakes in a small bowl. Mix well, and set aside.

Heat the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute, or until the mixture turns slightly beige, is bubbly, and appears to have grown in volume. Increase the heat to medium, and slowly whisk in the steeped and strained milk. Bring to a boil, whisking frequently. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer the sauce for 2 minutes.

Reserve 1/2 cup of the jalapeƱo Jack. Add the remaining cheeses to the sauce by 1/2 cup measures, stirring until the cheese melts before making another addition. Stir in two-thirds of the seasoning mixture and all of the nutmeg.

Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and 2 garlic cloves, and cook, stirring frequently for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the onion is browned. Add the red pepper and remaining seasoning mix.

Pour the sauce over the pasta, add the onion mixture, and stir well. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and transfer the pasta to the prepared pan.

Combine the breadcrumbs, parsley, and remaining garlic, and remaining olive oil in a small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top of the dish, and then sprinkle with the breadcrumbs.

Bake the casserole for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the cheese sauce is bubbly and the crumbs on the top are deep brown. Allow to sit for 5 minutes, then serve, garnishing each serving with lime wedges and a few tortilla chips.

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