A few months ago I was contacted by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board about participating in the launch of their Macaroni & Cheese blog in celebration of National Cheese Lover’s Day. Hello!? Of course I was interested! How could I resist such an offer? I have always loved cheese, and most of my favorite foods are very cheesy. And, one of those foods just happens to be macaroni and cheese. Many food bloggers have been involved to compile 30 days worth of mac and cheese, and each has developed a recipe featuring a different cheese.
I was happy when I learned that my featured cheese would be Colby jack, because it is our standard in the house for snacking and such. I knew immediately that I wanted to attempt a spicy variation of mac and cheese, and Colby jack fit well into that plan. I typically prefer to use more than one type of cheese in the cheese sauce for the sake of variety and more depth of flavor. This time around I decided to use mostly Colby jack, with some pepper jack for spice and sharp cheddar as well. To add to the spiciness of the dish, I sautéed a mixture of finely chopped jalapeno pepper, roasted red pepper, and onion, and mixed this into the sauce before baking. Finally, I mixed some cayenne pepper into both the cheese sauce itself and the bread crumb topping for an added kick.
I was absolutely thrilled with how this turned out. In fact, I think it’s my new favorite mac and cheese. I’ll always love a traditional version as well, but I think the added spice of this one just makes it more appealing to me. The cheese sauce was creamy and the vegetables added great flavor, but thanks to fine chopping and sautéing there were not noticeable chunks affecting the texture of the dish. Overall I would call this mild-moderately spicy, which is what I was going for. Our whole family loved it. It was also delicious reheated as leftovers later! The amount of spice can be easily adapted to suit your preference by adding more or less jalapeno and cayenne pepper.
Check out the Macaroni and Cheese Blog for the rest of the 30 days of mac and cheese entries. I can’t wait to see all the wonderful variations – and of course, try many of them!