Rich, cheesy, crunchy: What's not to like about this baked, bread-crumb-topped casserole? Here, the iconic comfort-food favorite gets added zip from lots of garlic and a few roasted green chili peppers, a little smoky but not hot.
The basic recipe can be embellished by adding a few dashes of Tabasco sauce or a teaspoon or so of dry mustard, to taste, to the bowl of cooked vegetables, then stirring to combine. Or make it a main dish by adding shrimp, shredded smoked chicken or lobster meat and fresh jalapeno pepper.
Servings: 12 - 14
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the baking dish
- 1 medium onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice (1 to 1 1/2 cups)
- 10 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 8 to 10 ounces fresh green chili peppers, such as pasilla or Anaheim, roasted, then cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 1 cup); see NOTE
- 2 cups crustless French bread, shredded by hand into 1/2-inch pieces
- 4 large eggs
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 tablespoon sea salt (for the cooking water)
- 1 pound dried elbow macaroni
- 12 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
- 12 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, grated
Position an oven rack in the middle of the oven; preheat to 400 degrees. Use a little butter to grease a shallow ovenproof 4-quart baking dish.
Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic; cook for about 5 minutes, until the vegetables just start to soften. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Transfer to a medium bowl and add the diced roasted chili peppers.
Wipe out the skillet, then add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and heat over medium heat. When the butter has melted, remove the skillet from the heat and add the shredded bread, stirring to coat the pieces evenly with the butter. Allow to cool.
Use a fork to lightly beat the eggs in a medium bowl; add the milk and stir to combine.
Fill a large pot with 3 quarts of water; add the sea salt and bring to a boil. Add the macaroni; once the water has returned to a boil, cook for 4 minutes. At that point, the macaroni will not be cooked through. Drain in a colander, then return the pasta to the pot, off the heat. Add the shredded cheddar and jack cheeses, stirring to combine. When the cheese has melted and is evenly distributed, add the egg mixture and the onion mixture and stir to combine. The macaroni and cheese mixture will be fairly loose.
Transfer to the baking dish. Sprinkle the buttered bread crumbs evenly on the top. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the topping is golden brown and the edges are bubbling. Serve warm or at room temperature.
NOTE: To roast a chili pepper, place it on a piece of aluminum foil positioned about 4 inches from the broiler element; turn every few minutes until the skin is charred on all sides. Alternatively, you may place the pepper on a cooling rack over a gas burner on medium heat or use a kitchen torch, turning the pepper for even charring. Place the charred pepper in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap or enclose in a paper bag. After 15 minutes, remove and discard the charred skin; it will slip right off.
From Oakton resident Tim Artz.
Tested by Jane Touzalin.
E-mail questions to the Food Section at firstname.lastname@example.org.