Texas Mac n’ Cheese

My best friend lives in Austin, TX, so I find myself down in the People’s Republic quite often. We share one very important thing in common: our love of food. Every time I’m there, she takes me to another local restaurant that just blows my mind. I always think that it can’t be better than the last, but it usually is.

On one of my recent trips, she took me to a place called The Dogwood. It’s located in the West Sixth Street area that is lined with adorable bars and restaurants with rooftops and patios. We were just there for appetizers and drinks. We went with the Fried Green Tomatoes and Mac ‘n Cheese.

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It was the first time that I’ve ever had Fried Green Tomatoes, and they were just wonderful! But the Mac n’ Cheese is what I will never, EVER forget. It was hands down, the BEST Mac n’ Cheese that I have ever had in my entire life. I’m not even exaggerating. I could not stop eating it and am drooling right now just thinking about it.

It was really spicy, super creamy and covered with jalapeno kettle chips and more cheese. I wanted to eat there every single day that trip. But we didn’t. The next day, we ended up going to Gruene, Texas, which was freaking adorable and we had a blast, so I can’t really complain.

Anyway, since that day, I have been craving this perfect, spicy, delicious Mac n’ Cheese. Since I’m now back in Chicago and can’t just go to The Dogwood, I decided to try to make it myself to get my fix. I scoured the internet for spicy Mac n’ Cheese recipes, and went with a recipe from Bone Lick BBQ (which is actually in Atlanta).

Sadly, it was not QUITE as good as The Dogwood, but that is a very hard act to follow. This recipe was wonderful the day I made it, but the leftovers weren’t great. It also wasn’t nearly as spicy as I wanted it to be. My jalapenos were of questionable quality though, so that might have been the reason. If you have a low tolerance for spicy and can polish the whole batch in a sitting, then this is the recipe for you.

Enjoy!

*   *   *

Jalapeno Mac n’ Cheese

1 (16-ounce) package of elbow pasta (or other small pasta shells)
¼ cup butter
½ cup flour
2½ cups  2% milk (or cream)
6 slices white American cheese, chopped
1 cup shredded extra-sharp white Vermont cheddar
3 jalapenos, seeded and finely minced
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (I used horseradish brown mustard)
1 teaspoon salt

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Prepare pasta according to package directions.
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Melt butter over low heat. Whisk in flour and cook 1 minute, whisking constantly. Gradually whisk in milk (or cream). Cook over medium heat, whisking until mixture thickens and bubbles. Remove from heat.
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Add cheeses, mustard, salt, and jalapeño peppers, stirring until cheese melts and sauce is smooth. Stir in pasta and cook over medium heat for 1 minute (or until thoroughly heated). Serve and enjoy!
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