Monday, October 16, 2017

Baked Chili Macaroni and Cheese

I really dislike macaroni and cheese. In my youth, my mom did not like to cook. But knowing she was responsible for feeding my sister Kathy and I, she would often reach for a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. It was a single pan affair and apparently pasta, powdered cheese, margarine and milk ticked all her boxes as a complete meal. Oh, the horror.

I have been an adult now for 47 years and I am here to tell you that not once in that time period has one forkful of Macaroni and Cheese ever crossed my lips. But I was cruising the Interwebs last week and came across a recipe that caught my eye. Well, the photograph caught my eye, truth be told. The recipe was for a one-pot Chili Mac and Cheese dish.

As a general rule of thumb, I dislike one-pot recipes as they are full of shortcuts and compromises. I'm retired and having a crapload of time on my hands, so there is never a need for shortcuts when it comes to cooking. But the photograph looked really good to me and I thought: What if I were to create the meal as a casserole? For that, I turned to the one recipe that my mother made that I actually enjoyed as a kid.

My mom used to make Joey's Italian Goulash when I was little. It was actually more American than Italian, thanks to the hamburger...but I really liked it. Over time, I re-did her recipe and it is now one of my family's favorites:

So I used that recipe as the structure for my Baked Chili Macaroni and Cheese. And I simply swapped out the Italian ingredients for Mexican ingredients. And to give it an authentic chili taste, I turned to another favorite blog recipe of mine, The Loon Cafe's Pecos River Red Chili. I think that it is, perhaps, the greatest and most pleasingly complex spice mixture in all of Chilidom.

So on Sunday, Mac and Cheese was back on the Gruggen menu. And I'm here to tell you it was absolutely fabulous. Now granted, the ingredient list puts this dish in an entirely different galaxy than Kraft Mac and Cheese. And be forewarned, the recipe makes a double batch....I actually used two, 13" X 9" baking dishes. And I had enough cheese in there to fill a wheelbarrow. So we had dinner for four last night and polished off a baking dish. And it was so good, we're having the second baking dish tonight. Mac and Cheese! Shout it out!

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 pound Chorizo Sausage
1 pound ground beef

1 large onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced

Four, 4-ounce cans of mild green chiles, diced
1, 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
1, 14.5 ounce can of tomato sauce
3 pounds of shredded Mexican cheese, divided

4 tablespoons smoked paprika
2-1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2-1/2 teaspoons of chili powder

16 ounces elbow macaroni


  1. Pre-heat oven to 350ยบ.
  2. In a large skillet, brown sausage and ground beef in 1 tablespoon olive oil. Use spatula to break meat into small crumbles. When browned, place meat in a large bowl.
  3. In the same skillet, add another tablespoon of oil and then onion and red bell pepper. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes, and then add to the meat in the large bowl.
  4. Add the chilis, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and 1 pound of cheese to the bowl. Then add all of the spices to the bowl.
  5. Cook macaroni to al dente in a large pot of water. Drain in a colander and add macaroni to the large bowl.
  6. Using a large spoon, thoroughly mix all of the contents in the large bowl. Then spoon the mixture into two, 13" X 9" baking dishes. Top each dish with 1 pound of cheese. Cover tightly with foil and slide the baking dishes into the oven.
  7. Cook for 45 minutes. Then remove foil and cook for 15 minutes more. Remove from oven and serve.

Wine pairing: Becky's cousin, Linda, joined us for dinner last night and brought a 94-point wine along. The wine was Unanime, a fantastic Cabernet/ Malbec blend from Argentina. What a treat! But if you're making this for a regular weeknight dinner, try a Trapiche Malbec Oak Cask...just $7.79 at Total Wine.

Me and Goldie, 1956

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