Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese with Hatch Chiles
Did you know that April 12th is National Grilled Cheese Day? No? Well, now you do! And in honor of National Grilled Cheese Day, I created a wonderful toasty-golden grilled cheese sandwich featuring Hatch chiles and, of course, macaroni and cheese!
I had some leftover fire-roasted Hatch chiles in the freezer (always good to have on hand) and because Hatch chiles and mac & cheese pair so beautifully, I had to incorporate them into my grilled cheese. More on how to roast Hatch chiles here, and I'll work on creating a how-to post soon.
You might think that making homemade mac and cheese is too much work just to put into a sandwich...and you'd be incorrect. This mac and cheese comes together quickly and doesn't even involve making a roux. Simple stuff! Because I don't want you to have to wait to enjoy the gooey, crispy, subtly-spicy lusciousness of this grilled-cheese sandwich. Ingredients roll-call: the usual organic fat-free milk, butter and seasonings, along with a quinoa pasta, Beecher's amazing Flagship cheese, Tillamook's zingy pepper-jack slices, Dave's Killer Bread, and some heavy cream.
First up, the Hatch chiles. If you're using previously-frozen, like me, make sure your chiles are completely thawed before handling. If you're roasting fresh, check my link noted above for hints and tips. Either way, once the chiles are roasted and cooled (or thawed), carefully peel off the outer skin and remove the stem and seeds from each chile. Reserve the chiles, about one per sandwich.
In a large pot, cook the pasta per package directions. I decided to mix it up a bit by using a quinoa pasta, but feel free to use whatever pasta you like - I think elbows or another short shape will work best with this recipe. Drain, then set aside.
While the pasta is cooking, shred the Beecher's Flagship (or extra sharp cheddar) cheese. To the same large pot, add the heavy cream and fat-free milk and stir gently, bringing the mixture to a gentle simmer over low heat (about five minutes). Add seasoned salt and seasoned pepper and stir to combine. Taste, then adjust seasonings as necessary. Throw in the Beecher's cheese and stir until everything's melted and happy. Add the quinoa elbows and stir to combine. Set aside the pot while you prep the sandwiches.
Your butter should be softened. If it is not (I know I often forget to rescue the butter from the fridge to soften it for recipes), simply soften it in the microwave using 5-second intervals, turning to a new side after each 5-second interval is up. You should have nice, uniformly softened butter within the first few turns.
Butter the outside of two slices of bread, then place one slice of bread, butter side down, in a small skillet pan. NOTE: Do not turn on the heat, just place the bread in the cold pan. We want to build the sammie before turning on the heat. Now, it's time to layer on the cheesy goodness!
First, a slice of pepper jack cheese.
Next, a healthy scoop of mac and cheese.
On top of that, add a layer of Hatch chile (about one whole chile per sandwich).
Another slice of pepper jack cheese,
then the other slice of bread, butter-side up. NOW, turn the heat on low. This is one of those times where patience is a virtue, because you want the sammie to cook slowly and take its sweet time caramelizing and getting all nice and crisply browned on the outside. Allow about three minutes per side (and don't forget to flip it over to evenly toast both sides!), but check it periodically and of course, adjust to the level of doneness you prefer.
Those six minutes ticked by very, very slooooowly, as evidenced by the sad face on our chief taster's face.
Once the sammie is cooked to your liking, remove the pan from the heat and allow it to rest, in the pan, for another few minutes.
Then, plate it and have at it!
Looks amazing, right? Crispy outside, gooey inside, just perfect! And the zing of chiles comes through at the end for a nice surprise.
And in case you like your grilled cheese with a lighter toast, here you go. This recipe makes four whole sandwiches, so you can please all tastes! My verdict? 4 elbows up - the layers of flavor were amazing and the textures (crunchy! gooey!) made it a stand-out. I'll be making these again very soon. Here is my recipe.
- 8 ounces gluten-free quinoa elbow pasta (or any other elbow pasta)
- 3/4 cup fat-free milk
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
- 1/2 teaspoon seasoned pepper
- 2 1/2 cups Beecher's Flagship cheese, shredded (or other extra-sharp Cheddar)
- 8 slices Tillamook pepper jack cheese
- 8 slices Dave's Killer Bread 21 Whole Grain
- 4 fire-roasted Hatch chiles
- 4 tablespoons butter, softened
- Roast the Hatch chiles, or if you're using previously frozen chiles, thaw completely. Once the chiles are roasted and cooled (or thawed), peel off outer skin and remove stem and seeds from each chile. Reserve chiles, about one per sandwich.
- In a large pot, cook pasta per package directions. Drain, then set aside.
- To the same large pot, add heavy cream and fat-free milk and stir gently, bringing mixture to a gentle simmer over low heat (about five minutes). Add seasoned salt and seasoned pepper and stir to combine. Add Beecher's cheese and stir until melted. Add pasta and stir to combine. Set aside pot while you prep sandwiches.
- Butter the outside of two slices of bread, then place one slice of bread, butter side down, in a small skillet pan. NOTE: Do not turn on heat, just place bread in cold pan.
- Building the sandwich: on the bread in the skillet, layer one slice pepper jack cheese, then one scoop macaroni and cheese, then one Hatch chile, then another slice pepper jack cheese, and finally the remaining slice of bread, butter-side up.
- Over low heat, cook the sandwich (about 3 minutes per side, flipping once) until desired doneness. Remove pan from heat and rest for two minutes.
- Serve and scarf down immediately!
Go make this one now!