Hello cheat day! Oh how I missed thee. When my sister called me this past Saturday and invited us over for some smoked barbecue, we were all in. She asked me to bring a side so I instantly thought of making a mac and cheese to compliment the smoked meats they were making. Plus, I had a friend on Facebook request a spicy mac and cheese recipe so I figured this would be the appropriate time to answer said request.
My sister and her husband are amazing cooks as well. They have a smoker and on this particular evening, they made smoked chicken legs and ribs. Holy-moly was it good! The thermometer almost hit 55 on Saturday so it was the perfect evening to chow down on some comfort food and wash it down with a few beers. Spring is finally almost here!
Then drain and reserve the grease
Slightly under cook the pasta since you will be baking it in the oven later
Four Cheese Bacon Jalapeno Mac and Cheese
1 pound of bacon
1 1/2 pounds macaroni
1 pound pepper jack
1 pound extra sharp cheddar
1/2 pound Gouda
5-7 ounces fontina
1 jalapeno, minced
1 cup sweet onion, diced
1/4 cup bacon grease
5 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup flour
5 cups whole milk
12 ounces evaporated milk
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 sleeve of Ritz crackers, crushed
3 tablespoons butter
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease/spray pan. I used a cast iron skillet and had enough left for another 9x9 pan. You can also use a 9x13 pan.
Preheat a large skillet over medium heat. Chop bacon into small, bite-sized pieces. Add bacon to pan and cook until brown and crispy. Remove from pan and drain on a paper towel lined plate. Reserve bacon grease.
Bring large stock pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 5-6 minutes until al dente. Drain and place in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
Grate all cheese and place in another bowl. To the same stock pot used for pasta, add bacon grease and butter and cook until butter is melted. Add onion and jalapeno and cook for 5 minutes, until softened. Add flour and continue to cook for 2 minutes. Whisk in milk and evaporated milk.
Cook over medium-high heat until sauce thickens. Add hot sauce, Worcestershire, salt and pepper. Turn heat on low and add about half of the shredded cheese. Whisk until a smooth sauce forms. Add crumbled bacon and remove from heat.
Pour sauce over cooked pasta and gently fold to coat all of the macaroni. Add the rest of the shredded cheese but reserve 1/4 cup for the topping. Stir to combine. Pour macaroni mixture into prepared pan.
To the remaining 1/4 cup of cheese, add crushed crackers, butter and stir to coat. Top the macaroni and cheese with the cracker topping. Place pan in oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until brown and bubbly. Remove from oven and let cool for at least 15 minutes.
Garnish with some flat leaf parsley and serve to hungry guests!