"This is the best macaroni and cheese you've ever made!"
I wasn't surprised that Jeff loved this variation (bacon and jalapeños, yum!). But I love classic mac'n'cheese, and I wondered if the additions would detract from the traditional flavor. They didn't! I still knew I was eating macaroni and cheese; it just had a spark of flavor every now and then.
This recipe was developed by a Cooking Light message board poster named Canice. It's not light, but it is not as decadent as many versions, such as this delicous one from Martha Stewart. To make it more kid-friendly, I baked a portion without peppers in a glass pie plate.
Macaroni and Cheese with Bacon and Jalapeños
8 ounces cavatappi pasta or elbow macaroni
Two strips bacon
Two jalapeño peppers: slice lengthwise and remove membranes and seeds. Cut into thin half moons.
Two Serrano peppers, sliced thinly (retaining membrane and seeds)
1 clove garlic, minced
3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp flour
1-3/4 cups milk, slightly warmed or room temp
6 ounces sharp orange cheddar cheese
4 ounces Monterey jack cheese
2 tsp Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook pasta according to package directions, draining after minimum stated cooking time. Rinse with cold water to stop cooking. Set aside.
While pasta cooks, prep peppers and shred/mix cheeses. Reserve one cup cheese mixture.
Using the same pot, cook the bacon until quite crisp. Remove bacon and set aside on paper towels. Reduce heat and add peppers and garlic to hot bacon fat and cook until soft. Set aside with bacon and wipe out pot.
Place butter in pot and melt over low flame. When the butter has stopped foaming, stir in flour and whisk continuously for three minutes, to cook out raw flavor. Slowly whisk in milk and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook five minutes, whisking continuously.
Remove from heat and whisk in cheese, keeping mixture in motion until cheese is melted.
Crumble bacon into cheese mixture and stir in cooked peppers and mustard.
Pour in cooked pasta and mix well to combine.
Place in a heatproof 9x11 or casserole pan and bake 30 minutes, uncovered.
Remove and top with reserved cheese and cook 10 minutes more. Finish under broiler for a minute or two if you like the top to get crunchy.
Let rest five minutes before serving.