Thursday, March 28, 2013

Fajita Macaroni & Cheese

Sometimes I just get this cooking idea that I can't seem to escape from. It's like when you get a song stuck in your head and you do anything to try to get rid of it. Think of that but with food. I don't even know where the idea came from, but I must have heard or seen something that set it off: fajita mac and cheese. Once the thought was there, I couldn't not make it. No matter how much I told myself I didn't need to make a pot of mac and cheese for dinner, my stomach wouldn't listen. Eventually I gave in and made this. Let me tell you--my stomach knows what it's talking about. It was right to urge me to throw together this recipe because it was pretty spectacular.

If you're looking for some sort of lighter twist on mac and cheese, you've come to the wrong place. This is a full fat, balls to the wall kind of mac and cheese recipe. The chicken and the veggies almost make it seem lighter than it is, but don't let them fool you. This stuff will make you fat if you let it. You can leave out the chicken or substitute it with beef or shrimp if that's your kind of thing. You can change out the veggies you don't like or add in more that you do. Do whatever you want to the fajita part of the recipe, but do yourself a favor and make the cheese sauce the way you're supposed to. When you get that craving for ooey, gooey, rich, creamy mac and cheese, there is no substitute. Enjoy it in all its fatty gloriousness. Work out hard to make up for it if you must, but don't skimp on the good stuff here. Trust me.


1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 limes
1 cup sliced red bell pepper
1 cup sliced green bell pepper
1 cup sliced onion
1/2 to 1 cup sliced mushrooms
2 roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
8 ounces cooked chicken breast strips
16 ounces tube pasta, such as penne or cavatappi
2 cups half-and-half
2 cups milk
6 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/2 cup flour
6 ounces white cheddar, shredded
6 ounces Monterey Jack, shredded
Tortilla strips, optional


Combine oil, cumin, chili powder, oregano, paprika, pepper, and sea salt in a large bowl. Juice limes into bowl. Mix well, and add red bell pepper, green bell pepper, onion, mushrooms, tomatoes, and garlic. Stir to coat vegetables well. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours. (If desired, you can also marinate the chicken breast strips along with the vegetables.)

Pour marinade, vegetables, and chicken into a hot cast iron skillet and cook until vegetables reach desired tenderness, stirring frequently. Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, boil pasta according to package directions. Drain well.

Bring half-and-half and milk to a simmer over medium-low heat in a small pot. In a large pot, melt butter. Add flour and whisk well. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Slowly pour heated half-and-half mixture into the pot while whisking constantly. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat and stir in shredded cheeses a small handful at a time, ensuring that the previous handful is completely melted before adding more. Add pasta and fajita mixture to the pot, gently mixing to coat with cheese sauce. Serve hot, topped with tortilla strips if desired.

Servings: 4-6

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