Adult Ham Mac and Cheese

I like mac and cheese. A lot. However, that usually means something in a box to most people. I have nothing against the boxed version but it mostly hooks you in with a lot of salt.

I am not pure of heart, though. If I had my way, mac and cheese is made with process cheese like Velveeta. It just melts better. However, She Who Must Be Obeyed calls process cheese “orange” and I get a tongue clucking when I use it.

I decided if I was going to do a version with real cheese, I might as well jazz it up and make it even more complex. I have thrown in some ham cubes for colour, chew and a touch of saltiness. I added some salsa. Not enough to make it a TexMex dish, just enough to add some tomato sweetness and pepper bite. My final addition was just a bit of finely chopped jalapeno. Not enough to cause any burn but just a touch of background heat. I wanted a mac and cheese that was creamy with a big cheese hit but other flavours to add to the complexity.

I started by preheating my oven to 350 F.

I finely diced 15 ml (1 tablespoon) jalapeno.

I cubed 250 grams (1/2 pound) or about 500 ml (2 cups) of old cheddar. I cubed 1 cup of ham.

I cooked 250 grams (1/2 pound) or about 500 ml (2 cups) of macaroni (measured before cooking) until al dente. Follow the package instructions. I drained it and set it aside.

I melted 60 ml (1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons) of butter over medium heat. I added 60 ml (1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons) of flour and stirred to combined.

I slowly added 400 ml (1 2/3 cups) of milk and stirred to combine. I added the jalapenos, 2 ml (1/2 teaspoon) salt and 2 ml (1/2 teaspoon) pepper.  Cook, stirring constantly until the milk thickens. Add the cubed cheese and stir until melted and completely combined. Remove from heat and set aside.

Spray a 1 1/2 litre (1 1/2 quart) casserole with baking spray. Put 1/2 the cooked macaroni in the casserole. Put 1/2 of the cubed ham over the macaroni. Put 1/2 of the 175 ml (3/4 cup) of medium salsa over the ham. Pour 1/2 of the cheese sauce over the salsa.

Repeat the layers with the remaining macaroni, ham, salsa and cheese sauce.

Sprinkle 50 ml (1/4 cup) of bread crumbs over the surface. Dot the surface with 15 ml (1 tablespoon) butter.

Bake at 350 F for 40 minutes or until heated through and the bread crumbs are golden. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

The Verdict

This came out just the way I wanted it. It is a nice creamy mac and cheese. You woudn’t know there was salsa and jalapeno added. There is just a brighter taste to the cheese sauce and a mild touch of spiciness that lingers after eating it. I guarantee kids will still love this but adults will find the bolder taste appealing.

I have to admit, I would use 1/2 cheddar and 1/2 process cheese because I like the way the process melts but I can’t argue with She Who Must Be Obeyed, the big cheddar taste was nice!

The Old Fat Guy.

Adult Ham Mac and Cheese

Adult Ham Mac and Cheese

Ingredients

  • 15 ml (1 tablespoon) finely chopped jalapeno
  • 250 grams (1/2 pound) old cheddar cheese, cubed to make 500 ml (2 cups)
  • 250 ml (1 cup) cubed ham
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons) butter
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons) flour
  • 400 ml (1 2/3 cups) milk
  • 2 ml (1/2 teaspoon) salt
  • 2 ml (1/2 teaspoon) pepper
  • 175 ml (3/4 cup) salsa
  • 50 ml (1/4 cup) bread crumbs
  • 15 ml (1 tablespoon) butter

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 F.
  2. Cook the macaroni according the directions on the package. Drain and set aside.
  3. Melt the 60 ml (1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons) butter over medium heat.
  4. Add the flour and stir to combine.
  5. Add the milk slowly, stirring until combined.
  6. Add the jalapeno, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, until the milk thickens, about 5 minutes.
  7. Add the cheese and stir until the cheese is melted and combined. Remove from heat and set aside.
  8. Spray a 1 1/2 litre (1 1/2 quart) casserole with baking spray.
  9. Put 1/2 of the macaroni in the casserole.
  10. Sprinkle 1/2 of the ham over the macaroni.
  11. Spoon 1/2 of the salsa over the ham.
  12. Pour 1/2 of the cheese mixture over the ham.
  13. Repeat with the remaining macaroni, ham, salsa and cheese mixture.
  14. Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the top and dot with the 15 ml of butter.
  15. Bake for 40 minutes or until heated through and the top is golden.
  16. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.
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