Iron Skillet Bacon Chipotle Mac n Cheese. Preparing homemade mac n cheese in my house is a rare, but tasty occurence! Any recipe that involves more than one cup of cheese, according to my husband, is way too much cheese, LOl! You have to understand that Richard has worked in a large cheese producing factory for the past 33 years. He threatens to tell me the truth behind the cheese someday, but for now I will enjoy what I can, ha ha ha!! Recently, he was taking some time off of work and I asked him for a few suggestions on dinner ideas. I was shocked when I heard the words “mac n cheese” come out of his mouth! But, there was a catch. The catch was that he would love to try it, only if I added thick cut bacon and chipotle peppers. These are two of his favorite foods. Before he could even finish talking, I was pulling ingredients out of the pantry. It just so happened that I found this awesome Mexican Chihuahua cheese at the market a few days before. It was a win, win situation!! Let’s just say, that Richard enjoyed 4 out of the 6 servings from the Bacon Chipotle Mac n Cheese recipe. Cheese lovers unite!! LOl!
8 strips of thick cut bacon, chopped
5 cups penne pasta, cooked according to package
*I used whole grain pasta
1 large sweet onion, sliced thin
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 1/2 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
1 to 2 chipotles in adobo, minced
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
2 tablespoons hot sauce (Texas Pete or Franks)
1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon annatto powder, optional (used mostly for color)
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups Chihuahua cheese or Monterey jack, shredded
1 1/2 cups mozzarella, shredded
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon crushed Mexican oregano
*Just a quick, but important note. I prepared this recipe using one cast iron skillet, besides the pot I cooked the pasta in.
1. In a the skillet, cook the bacon until crispy. Drain onto a plate lined with paper towels. Drain all of the grease leaving just 1 tablespoon. Reserve the bacon grease. Add 1 tablespoon of butter and all of the sliced onions. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
2. Turn the heat to medium/low on onions and continue cooking until caramelized. This could take up to 30 minutes and you need to stir often. While doing this, you could cook your pasta according to package directions, drain, rinse in cold water and drizzle with a little olive oil so it does not stick.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove onions from skillet onto a plate, set aside. Add 2 tablespoons of butter to skillet and 1 tablespoon of bacon grease. Whisk in 2 1/2 tablesppons of flour and cook for a few minutes.
4. Whisk in the milk until there are no more lumps. To the milk, you are going to add all of the ingredients in the order listed minus the cheese. Cook on medium/low until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat, add 1 cup mozzarella and 1 cup Chihuahua cheese and stir just until melted.
5. Fold in the cooked pasta, half of the bacon and half of the caramelized onions. Top with remaining cheese, bacon and onions. In a bowl, mix panko with 1 1/2 tablespoons of bacon grease and oregano. Spread the breadcrumbs evenly over mac n cheese. Loosely cover with foil paper and bake for 25 minutes. Uncover and cook under the broiler just until breadcrumbs turn golden brown. Remove from oven and let mac n cheese rest for 15 minutes before serving. Yields 6 servings.