I’m just going to start out by saying that you’re going to want to serve this macaroni and cheese as a part of your Thanksgiving meal, so go ahead and write it on your menu right now. It’s okay, I’ll wait.
Okay, great. I’m glad you agree that this macaroni and cheese is DEFINITELY holiday-worthy. It’s also the-in-laws-are-coming-for-dinner worthy, or rainy-Saturday-watching-football worthy, or birthday-dinner worthy. This macaroni and cheese is perfect for any day, any occasion, and I advise that you make it often.
One of my favorite parts about this mac and cheese? That it doesn’t require making a roux, and waiting 100 hours for your sauce to thicken. No matter how many times I make cheese sauces, I frequently have issues – the cheese separates and the sauce breaks, the sauce never quite thickens up right, the sauce thickens TOO MUCH, etc – and it was FABULOUS to not have to worry about all that. Definitely another tally mark in the “Pro” column.
Beer and Chile Macaroni and Cheese
1lb macaroni noodles, cooked just shy of al dente
1 cup heavy cream
8oz cream cheese
6oz cheddar cheese, grated
6oz smoked gouda, grated (divided)
1 heaping tablespoon chile salsa*
heaping 1/2 tsp ground mustard
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
*Let’s briefly discuss the chile salsa. I bought this salsa a while back, and despite its rather steep price tag, I would buy it again, a million times over. I use just the tiniest bit in all kinds of applications – mixed with some greek yogurt to top a baked potato, spread thinly on top of the cream cheese on a bagel, smeared onto a sandwich. The little hint of heat and smoke it adds to any dish is fantastic. I’d highly recommend it. HOWEVER: if you don’t have this particular salsa, and have no desire to acquire it, here are some alternatives for this particular dish:
– one minced chipotle pepper (with sauce), plus a teaspoon of smoked paprika
– any good, smoky salsa (preferably one with a less chunky texture), drained of its liquid
– one teaspoon each smoked paprika and chile powder plus a 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1.) Preheat your oven to 375°, and put your pasta water on to boil. Meanwhile, add your heavy cream, beer, and cream cheese to a large, heavy-bottomed pot, and place it over medium-low heat. Whisk occasionally as the mixture heats, until the cream cheese is well-combined with the cream and beer.
2.) Salt your pasta water well, and get your noodles cooking. Be careful not to overcook them; you want them to have a bit more bite than you want them to have in the final, baked dish.
3.) Add the onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper, and chile salsa to the cream mixture. Whisk to combine everything. Then, add all the grated cheddar and all of the gouda, save for a small handful (set that small handful of gouda aside for the topping). Whisk until the cheese is melted and you have a smooth, even sauce. Turn the heat down to low.
4.) Drain your pasta, and add it to the cheese sauce. Stir until all the noodles are coated.
5.) Pour your macaroni and cheese into a baking dish (9×13-ish is fine). Sprinkle the panko and the reserved gouda over the top of the macaroni, and lightly mist or drizzle with olive oil. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the breadcrumbs are just browned, and everything is warmed through. (Don’t over-bake this dish! It will dry out, and be slightly less delicious, and that will be sad.)
If you can manage not to go back for seconds and thirds of this stuff, then you are a stronger person than I am. The cheese sauce is SO flavorful and creamy; the chile salsa adds a perfect spice, without being too hot or overbearing, and it works beautifully with the smoky gouda. I will certainly never, ever, ever turn down a bowl of regular old mac and cheese – but this version takes mac and cheese to a whole new place. You should go there.
Macaroni and cheese is a traditional Thanksgiving dish, right?