Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Mac & Cheese with Ham and Jalapenos

Mac & Cheese. The perfect dish for dreary, cold winter nights. This version adds honey glazed ham and spicy jalapeno pepper for taste and a bit of heat. Add a large green salad and some steamed broccoli...dinner is served.

This recipe is very flexible and substitutions are encouraged. Try using bacon and green bell pepper instead of the ham and jalapeno. Or Italian sausage and sweet onion. Or ground beef and cooked butternut squash. Or a million other options. How would you make it?

You can make this a vegan recipe by using the olive oil, almond milk, and vegan substitute suggestions offered.

Mac & Cheese with Ham and Jalapenos
(serves 6)

2 cups elbow macaroni
1/4 cup unsalted butter or extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons unbleached flour
3 cups milk or almond milk
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
1 cup honey glazed ham, diced
1 large jalapeno, seeded and diced
3 cups extra sharp aged cheddar cheese, shredded (or vegan substitute)
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
sea salt
black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter (or vegan substitute) a medium sized casserole dish. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Generously salt water and add pasta. Cook for 7 minutes. Pasta will still be a bit firm but will continue cooking in the oven. Remove from heat, drain into a colander. Set aside.

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour, one tablespoon at a time, ensuring well blended. Add 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Heat milk in a microwave for 2 minutes. Add 1/3 of the milk and stir until combined. Repeat with additional thirds. Whisk in mustard and 1 large pinch each salt and pepper. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until sauce is beginning to thicken. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low. Add ham, jalapeno and cheese. Stir until cheese is melted. Let simmer 3-4 minutes or until sauce is as thick as you like. Remove from heat.

Place macaroni and cheese sauce in the large pot and stir to combine.  Pour into prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle with paprika. 

Bake for 20 minutes or until cheese sauce is hot and bubbling. Serve immediately.

Winter means comfort food at Food Network and this week we are celebrating Mac & Cheese. Do you have a favorite mac & cheese recipe? Share in the comments section and/or link to your blog if you have one. And be sure to check out the delicious sounding recipes from my blogger friends and Food Network. 

The Heritage Cook: Gluten-Free Cream Cheesy Risotto
The Mom 100: 
One Skillet Carroty Macaroni and Cheese
Daisy at Home: 
Squasheroni and Cheese
Creative Culinary: 
Smoked Gouda with Bacon Macaroni and Cheese
The Cultural Dish: 
New England (Lobster) Mac n' Cheese
The Wimpy Vegetarian: 
Curried Cauliflower and Greens Mac ’n Cheese
Napa Farmhouse 1885: 
Cauliflower and Veggie "Mac" & Cheese
Red or Green: 
Mac & Cheese with Ham and Jalapenos
Swing Eats: 
Super Creamy Crab Mac-N-Cheese with Scallions (gluten-free)
Taste with the Eyes: 
Korean "Mac and Cheese" with Beef, Kimchi, Cheddar
Rice Cooker Mac and Cheese
FN Dish: 
Food Network Chefs' Takes on the Gooiest Mac and Cheese Ever


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