Soooooo much has happened since I last blogged. For starters, I’m back in Southern California. For good this time? Time will tell. I just started a brand new job and I’m currently in corporate housing in Long Beach (for about the next three weeks). I put an offer in on a condo and we are in the middle of negotiating the price. Lots of change this year.
The first night I arrived in Long Beach (for good – there was a lot of back and forth travel during the last few months for interviews, home finding trips, etc.), my dad and I drove to the Albertson’s that I used to frequent. Instead I found an El Super. Good enough. In the El Super I picked up a package of chorizo. Not sure why. Had no plans for the chorizo.
When I asked my dad what he wanted me to make for dinner on Monday, he said mac ‘n cheese. Unfortunately it took me all week to carve out the time to cook. It’s taken me a bit to (again) get used to the volume of traffic in SoCal, and I’ve been running around meeting my realtor a lot recently. I’ve been eating lots of take out for dinner or munching on hummus and crackers as my meal. But I committed to making dinner one night this week and the chorizo has been calling my name.
So tonight I stopped at Trader Joe’s to get the necessary ingredients for a Mexican-style mac ‘n cheese. I was deterred momentarily at home when I began looking through the drawers and thought that my temporary housing did not include a cheese grater. Eventually I found one and I was underway making my version of the mac and cheese found at sheknows.com.
The first thing I did was to begin cooking the chorizo. The recipe said to cook it until crisp, about two minutes. I found after two minutes the sausage was barely cooked. So I kept on cooking. The longer it cooked the more the spice began to burn off the sausage. Or maybe it was the oil. Whatever was burning off in the pan began snaking through my throat. I first began sneezing non-stop. Then the sneezing changed to coughing. Eventually the entire apartment burned with the smell and my dad began coughing over in the living room, too. We were both coughing uncontrollably. He opened the door to the balcony and spilled out into the fresh air coughing and swearing.
The burning in my lungs eventually subsided enough for me to finish cooking the dish. I was a bit afraid that all the jalapeño and pepper jack cheese in the dish coupled with the spicy sausage would render this dish way too spicy for my taste (which would make it unbearable for my dad). Nothing to worry about here. It was just the right amount of spice.
This dish turned out a bit too soupy but I noticed the sauce thickened up substantially as it stood. I love, love, loved the flavor of this dish. The chorizo broke apart so fine it was barely detectable as meat. Its main function (other than flavor and spice) was to color the white cheese sauce. When shopping tonight, I almost bought black beans instead of pinto. In my Pinterest research last night I noticed that most recipes called for black beans. While I love black beans, pinto beans feel more Mexican to me and I wanted this dish to have Mexican flare. I wanted cilantro, but Trader Joe’s was out of it – definitely buy some if you can get your hands on it, though. Would I make this dish again? In heartbeat.
- 16 oz dry elbow macaroni or shells (or your choice shape of short noodles)
- 16 oz pork chorizo
- 2 jalapeño or 3 serrano peppers, diced (plus more for garnish)
- 4 T. all-purpose flour
- 3 c. milk
- 1 c. half-n-half
- 4 c. grated white cheddar cheese (plus more to sprinkle across the top)
- 4 c. grated pepper jack or Monterrey jack cheese (plus more to sprinkle across the top)
- 1 can chili beans, rinsed and drained (can sub pinto)
- 1 pint grape, pearl or heirloom tomatoes
- green onions, sliced (green and white parts separated)
- salt and pepper, to taste
- oil, butter or shortening (for greasing the baking dish)
- Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chorizo and cook until dry and crisp, breaking up the chorizo with a wooden spoon as it cooks. Add the white part of the green onion, tomatoes, peppers and beans. Let the mixture simmer while you cook the noodles and cheese sauce.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease an 13 x 8-inch baking dish or coat with nonstick spray.
- In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain well. Reserve.
- Meanwhile whisk in the flour with the milk and cream until well combined. Heat over medium heat, whisking constantly, until slightly thickened. Whisk in the cheddar and pepper jack cheeses until smooth. Season with salt and pepper as necessary.
- Remove from heat. Stir in the cooked macaroni and bean and meat mixture. Spread the macaroni into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with additional grated cheese.
- Bake for 25 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Garnish with sliced pepper and the green part of the onions. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.