My parents would cook macaroni until they were soft, drain them and add them to a bowl. The bowl most likely had a character from one of the Russian fairy tales on the bottom. Then, they'd add shredded cheese. The cheese would melt as soon as it hit the hot pasta and form long strings when I picked the pasta with a fork.
That's how we did it in Russia.
Fast forward 13 years, my family moved to Seattle and discovered boxed macaroni & cheese. Great convenient meal, but not too much to write home about.
Fifteen more years went by. I've tried countless versions of mac & cheese in restaurants, but it wasn't until I started freelancing for Robyn Webb that I made mac & cheese from scratch.
When Wisconsin Cheese approached me to develop a recipe for them, I knew two things: 1) I would use Robyn's mac & cheese recipe as a guideline and 2) I would make my version with Mexican flavors. What can I say...I've come a long way from a two-ingredient mac & cheese.
adapted from Robyn Webb
7.5 ounces Mexican chorizo
2 3/4 cups 2% milk
1/4 cup half and half
3 dry Guajillo Chiles, rehydrated in hot water
3 tablespoons cornstarch
12 ounces tri color Rotini pasta
1.5 cups shredded Asiago cheese
1.5 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 4-ounce can of diced green chiles
1/2 cup crushed lime-flavored tortilla chips
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Remove chorizo from its casing and brown in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Drain chorizo on a paper towel.
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring to a boil two cups of milk, half and half and Guajillo Chiles. Lower the heat and simmer for twenty minutes. Strain the milk mixture and discard the chiles.
In a heat-proof bowl, whisk the rest of the milk with cornstarch. Carefully, add one half of the heated milk mixture and mix together.
Add both the milk components back to the saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cook until it thickens. This will take 8-15 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook your pasta for five minutes.
Once the milk mixture has thickened, take the saucepan off the heat and add cheese.
In a large heat-proof bowl, combine cooked pasta, chorizo, diced green chiles and cheese sauce. Pour the mixture into a 2-quart oval baking dish and top with tortilla chips.
Bake for 20 minutes.
This dish packs a lot of flavor from the Mexican chorizo and two types of chiles. You can serve it with a side of guacamole or salsa.
Special Thank You to Gina for forwarding my name to Wisconsin Cheese people and to Anna, Mary and Sangeetha for discouraging me from using black beans in this recipe!