Mac and queso… that sounds like some sort of ’80s buddy cop show.
But I digress.
Last week was a pretty exciting week for me. I braved a local heat wave and came out the other side with only a mild case of heat exhaustion. I got my brand new Facebook page up and running — which you all should totally go like, by the way. I also had the best macaroni and cheese of all time while on the set of Glee.
Am I violating my NDA by revealing that?
But seriously, I had never in my life tasted a saltier, more intensely seasoned macaroni and cheese — like, turn-your-tongue-raw intense. All of the extras were piling their plates with it. It’s the only time on any set I’ve ever been remotely tempted to go back for seconds.
This recipe isn’t so much an attempt at a recreating that macaroni as it is an homage. I’m pretty sure an exact duplication would require several blocks of Velveeta, a realm into which I am not yet prepared to venture. I like to think of this mac and cheese as a more natural, although by no means healthier, alternative.
It’s definitely close enough to the original to tide me over until I work on Glee again. Otherwise I might be forced to start sneaking onto their set, which I hear is considered indecorous even by Hollywood standards.
This particular recipe is culled straight from the figurative pages of the Pioneer Woman‘s figurative book, with a few key adaptations and a pronouncedly more southwest vibe. The spices listed below are guidelines, and of course you’re welcome to add or omit flavors depending on your own personal taste. Above all, don’t be afraid to go crazy with the seasoning — if your tongue isn’t raw by the end, it’s not strong enough!
2 c macaroni
1 8oz pkg mexican blend shredded cheese, plus more for topping
1 1/4 c milk
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1-2 tsp salt, to taste
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp seasoned salt
1 tsp fajita seasoning
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp lime juice
1. Boil your macaroni for a few minutes until undercooked — they should still be very firm and chewy. Drain and set aside.
2. In a large pot over medium-low heat, melt butter and whisk in flour. Cook for about 5 minutes to form a roux.
3. Add milk and stir until combined. Continue whisking for about five minutes until thickened, then reduce heat to low.
4. In a separate bowl, beat your egg. Add a few tablespoons of the roux to the egg and whisk it in — this is to avoid cooking the egg. Pour the egg into the rest of the roux and waste no time in whisking it in!
5. Add cheese and stir until melted and thoroughly combined. Then stir in salt, spices, and lime juice.
6. Add cooked macaroni and stir to coat. Pour into a greased baking pan or casserole dish and top with extra shredded cheese and a good sprinkle of fajita seasoning. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes.