Friendsgiving & Manda Cooks: Jalapeno Macaroni & Cheese

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Thanksgiving Week was kicked off last night with a Friendsgiving Potluck. Thirteen of us each claimed a dish or drink, and piled into an apartment for the feast. Brett and I brought chicken marbella, apple pie, and jalapeno macaroni and cheese. The chicken and pie were repeats for us, but this was (surprisingly) my first time making baked mac & cheese. We also had traditional stuffing, quinoa stuffing, yams, homemade cranberry sauce, two salads and pumpkin pie. Plus a cocktail, and generous pours of wine all around.

Whenever I’m tackling a dish for the first time, I look to my three go-to sources for a recipe: Martha Stewart, Ina Garten, and Deb from SmittenKitchen.com. Deb’s baked mac & cheese recipe is adapted from Martha’s, so it was a done deal. The end result tasted like it was from a restaurant in a good way – do you know what I mean? It was creamy but not gooey, and the top and ends were crispy but not dry. Mm, mm, mm!!

If you are still looking for some Thanksgiving inspiration, a few links I’ve bookmarked with Thanksgiving in mind:
Smitten Kitchen’s Green Bean Casserole — I plan to make this Thursday
Victoria’s Leftover Pasta Salad — an alternative to turkey sandwiches
The Secret Ingredient to the Perfect Grilled Cheese — not exactly Thanksgiving related, and I’m a bit skeptical… but worth a shot?
Thanksgiving Etiquette — fun read
Cranberry Bourbon Fizz — look at those ice cubes!
Sarah’s Pomegranate Rosemary Spritzers — YUM

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Jalapeno Macaroni and Cheese, adapted from Smitten Kitchen, adapted from Martha Stewart (ha!)

Here’s what you need:
1 lb twisty macaroni
4 cups shredded cheddar
1 cup shredded gruyere
4 slices sandwich bread (stale is okay!)
2 big jalapenos, diced and seeds removed
4 cups whole milk
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Here’s what you do:
Cook noodles according to directions, minus two minutes of cooking time. Strain and set aside. Tear or slice the sandwich bread into small chunks or cubes and set aside. Pour milk into small pot over medium heat. In a separate, larger pot, melt butter over medium heat. Once butter starts to bubble, whisk in flour – it will get a bit clumpy, but everything is okay. Slowly add in the milk, whisking continuously. Whisk for another 8 or so minutes, while mixture bubbles and thickens. Remove from heat. Stir in most of the cheese (save some to sprinkle on top), spices, chopped jalapenos, and cooked macaroni. Stir until combined. (Before you add the macaroni, you might want to open a bag of tortilla chips and dunk a few into the cheesy mixture. Just to taste test, obviously.) Butter or spray the inside of your baking dish, then pour mixture in. Top with bread cubes, and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake at 375F for about 30 minutes. Serve immediately if possible, or re-heat before serving.

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