Beyond Comforting Food

I know that Labor Day traditionally involves grilling something delicious and maybe tossing a potato salad into the mix, but after a day of hiking and canoeing, I was wanting comfort food this year. That's where macaroni and cheese enters into the picture. But not just any macaroni and cheese. This treat is brimming with five different kinds of cheese and bacon! But, in addition, it's studded with bits of bacon-fried jalapeño pepper and a healthy dose of hot sauce. It's the most lovely blend of traditional baked macaroni and cheese, jalapeño poppers and buffalo seasoning. With a crunchy topping of corn flakes, more cheese and crispy bacon, it's definitely not health food. It is, however, beyond comforting food.

I'm not sure what to suggest serving this fantastic baked dish with since we simply had big bowls of it and nothing else for dinner! I suppose a green salad or something light might make you feel better about the fat content of the dish, but I'd suggest just not making it that often and enjoying it thoroughly when you do! After all, it's more than comfort food.

Jalapeño Popper Macaroni and Cheese

  • 4 slices thick-cut bacon
  • 2 tablespoons bacon grease
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 2 jalapeños, sliced with ribs and seeds removed
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 cup half and half
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
  • 2 ounces cream cheese
  • 2 tablespoons hot sauce
  • 2 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated pepper jack cheese
  • 2/3 cup blue cheese crumbles, divided
  • 1 cup corn flakes, crushed

In a large skillet, cook the bacon until crispy. Remove it from the pan, drain on paper towels and crumble. Pour off the excess bacon drippings, keeping 2 tablespoons in the pan. Place the skillet back on the heat and sauté onion and jalapeños until soft, about 6 minutes over medium heat. Set aside.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water generously and cook the pasta until very al dente, but not still crunchy. Drain and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In the same pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the cornstarch, along with the milk, half and half, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Increase the heat to medium high and continue mixing until the sauce thickens. Remove from the heat. Stir in the cream cheese and hot sauce until melted smoothly into the sauce. Pour the cooked pasta and sautéed onions and jalapeños into the sauce. Stir to coat. Stir in the cheeses (using only half of the blue cheese crumbles). Pour the mixture into a buttered baking dish and spread out evenly. Top with the remaining blue cheese, the corn flakes and crumbled bacon. Bake 20-30 minutes until the top of the macaroni has browned. Remove from oven and serve hot.

  • Yields: 6-8 servings
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour

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