Mexican Mac and Cheese Cups.
Anyone still out there? I thought maybe you ate yourself out of house and home with some s’mores jar cakes. I know I did. Good thing my real house isn’t made out of s’mores. Though that would be delicious. And fattening. Sticky too. And easy to huff and puff and blow down.
So… we have a little bit of mac and cheese here today. Allow me to tell you about it. After all, I do believe that I can speak with authority on the cheesy subject.
But first, two things of utter importance:
I realllllly hope that Water for Elephants is as good as the book. Movies never are. If it isn’t I might die. Or just… emotionally eat a lot of buttery popcorn out of a grease-stained bag or something. Sheesh.
All this mac and cheese stuff has me reminded of Mother Lovett and her delicious heart attack inducing casserole that she made each holiday. Her cheese sauce was perfect and whole wheat noodles were merely a blip on the radar… if she even knew what they were in the first place. Butter and flour were staples. She washed her hair in the sink, then pinned it up with old-fashioned pink rollers. She once used lip liner to pencil on her eyebrows. Mauve lipliner. She wore girdles. She spent a large chunk of our wedding reception trying fix her girdle and not reveal Victoria’s real secret to the world. True story.
But girdles and mac and cheese? Don’t go together. Noodles and cheese and peppers and onions and cumin and chicken and other stuff? Do go together. Try it. I beg of you.
Baked in individually portioned ramekins, this creamy and gooey mac and cheese is laced with shredded chicken and other taco-like ingredients, such as red onions and green peppers. It has a crusty, crunchy topping that lies gently over some burnt, bubbly brown cheese. Which is the best kind of cheese, in case you were wondering.
Mexican Mac and Cheese Cups
makes 6 ramekins (3 inches wide x 2 inches tall)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
2 cups dry whole wheat elbow noodles
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
1/2 cup green pepper, chopped
1/2 cup red pepper, chopped
1/2 cup corn (frozen is fine, just thaw and dry)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
2 cups milk
1 cup grated monterey jack cheese
1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
salt and pepper
fresh cilantro for garnish
The quickest and easiest way to make this is by using pre-cooked chicken, so cook your chicken however you like – grill, bake, broil, boil – and shred it. I also think this would work with very lean ground beef (to reduce the grease). Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare pasta water, bring to a boil, and cook noodles.
While noodles are cooking, heat a skillet on medium heat and add olive oil. Add onions and peppers and saute until soft, about 5-6 minutes. Add garlic and corn and cook for another minute. Add shredded chicken and cumin, chili and cayenne, mixing to combine. Turn heat down to low. [Whenever pasta is done, just make sure to drain it and add it to the chicken/pepper mix.]
Heat a small saucepan on medium heat and add butter. Once butter is sizzling, add flour and whisk to create a roux. Cook flour mixture for about 1-2 minutes, whisking continuously. Add milk and turn heat down medium-low. Add cheeses and stir, allowing cheese to melt and and sauce to thicken. It will take about 5-8 minutes for sauce to thicken – keep and eye on it and stir every minute or so to ensure the bottom is not burning. Once sauce is thick, add it to the chicken and pasta and mix to combine.
Spray ramekins with non-stick spray and add about 1 1/2 cups mac and cheese to each. Top with bread crumbs and additional cheese if desired. Bake for 20 minutes, or until cheese is golden. Serve with cilantro.
So good. So, so good that I had to try more than one ramekin. Portion sizing my arse.