Summer is finally coming around in Seattle! We are in the gasp seventies this week! With the warmer weather, my thoughts turn to balmy beaches and breezes. Which is why we’re heading down to the Caribbean for this week’s inspiration: Caribbean Jerk Macaroni & Cheese.
Sounds delicious and slightly naughty, doesn’t it? And with a nicely-seasoned grilled chicken breast on top, it is a meal in itself.
Now, I know that looks like a ton of ingredients. It is. But, it’s not so bad when you break them all down and believe me; they are all worth it for the end result. One note on the cheese:
If you can’t find Beecher’s No Woman cheese locally, or if you don’t want to order it online, then you can always substitute sharp white cheddar and just boost your spices a little bit. I highly advise using the No Woman cheese though, as it is spectacular in this recipe and on it’s own.
First, cook your pasta of choice (I went with multigrain penne) according to package directions. Drain, then set aside. While the pasta is cooking, seed and finely mince the habanero, then chop the green onion. Grab a small skillet and Pam it, then add the pepper and all but one tablespoon of the green onion (you’ll want to reserve it for garnish). Sauté the pepper and onion for a couple of minutes, until soft.
While your pasta is cooking and your pepper and onion are sautéeing (or somewhere thereabouts in the process), grate the No Woman cheese. Reserve three ounces of shredded cheese for topping the mac and cheese just prior to baking in the oven. Speaking of the oven, go ahead and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Liberally Pam an 8×8 baking dish and set aside.
Measure out all your spices and seasonings, as this will make it easier when the time comes to add them to your sauce.
Using the large pot you cooked your pasta in, melt the butter over medium heat. Once melted, add the flour and whisk. Continue whisking as you cook the mixture for about two minutes. Slowly begin to add in the milk, whisking constantly. Once the milk is incorporated, continue cooking the sauce for about five minutes, or until it thickens, whisking.
Remove the pot from heat and add the sautéed habanero pepper and green onions, then add your pre-measured spices, molasses and lime oil. Stir to combine, adjust seasonings to taste, then add the cheese. Continue to stir until the cheese has melted and everything is thoroughly mixed and happy. Add the cooked pasta and once again give it a good stir.
Load the mac and cheese into your Pammed baking dish, sprinkling the remaining No Woman cheese over the top. Bake, uncovered, for twenty minutes or until the top is browned and bubbling. Remove from oven and allow the dish to sit for at least five minutes prior to plating (always the hard part…).
Just after plating, be sure to garnish each portion with the remaining tablespoon of chopped green onion. If you’re feeling adventurous, also feel free to add a small sprinkle of chili powder as well.
If you wanted to make this a meal, you could easily just pop a grilled chicken breast on top of each portion – delicious!
And it was. I give this recipe a solid three elbows up! It had such an immense flavor storm going on that I could almost taste different aspects of each spice in each bite. And, it had a nice afterburn. Transported right back to the Caribbean, I was. At least for a moment there. In my own mind. Perhaps I’ll get someone to play steel drums as backup the next time I make this one.
Anyway, here’s my recipe.
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 2 cups fat-free milk
- 13 ounces Beecher's No Woman cheese, grated (divided)
- 6 ounces multigrain penne pasta (about 2 cups, dry)
- 1 teaspoon chili powder (divided)
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 habanero pepper, seeded and minced
- 1 green onion, chopped (divided)
- ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon seasoned salt
- 2 teaspoons seasoned pepper
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses
- 1 drop lime oil
- Cook pasta in large pot per package directions. Drain and set aside.
- In a small skillet, saute the habanero pepper and green onion until soft, about two minutes.
- In the same large pot you cooked the pasta in, melt butter. Once melted, whisk in flour. Cook, whisking constantly, for about two minutes.
- Slowly add milk in a thin stream, whisking until milk is incorporated. Continue to cook, whisking, until the sauce begins to thicken (about five minutes).
- Remove pot from heat and add sautéed pepper and onions, spices, molasses and lime oil. Stir to combine. Adjust seasonings to taste, then stir in cheese until melted.
- Add cooked pasta to the pot and stir to combine.
- Load mac and cheese into Pammed baking dish and top with remaining cheese. Bake in a 350 degree oven for twenty minutes.
- Remove from oven and allow to sit, resting, for five minutes.
- Once plated, garnish with remaining green onion.
- Serve and scarf down immediately!
All that was missing was Captain Jack Sparrow. But that’s a dream for another time.