Real talk, I've been chipping away at a nearly 9 pound brick of Mexican Manchego in my fridge for almost 2 weeks. We've dubbed it "The Manchego Baby."
I'm not complaining. AT ALL. It's just kinda funny to me. I mean, who has an almost 2 foot hunk of cheese in their fridge? (Insert show of hands from the food bloggers and moms of many here.)
Believe it or not, I'm more than halfway through it. We've eaten all the quesadillas, nachos, molletes and more but today we wanted something different. I had Mac n Cheese on the brain.
Mexican Manchego (which is different from Spanish Manchego) is a great choice for Mac n Cheese because it's super melt-y, not unlike Queso Chihuahua or Monterey Jack. It also has a nice cheddar-like sharpness to it. I noticed that it's tang is tamed pretty significantly by the cooking process so I made a little adjustment at the end by adding my new favorite ingredient. I hope you're as pleased with it as we were.
Manchego, Bacon and Serrano Mac N Cheese
14 oz Mini Shells Pasta, cooked and drained (I like Pagasa brand. 2 bags is perfect.)
1/2 small yellow onion, finely diced
6 strips bacon, chopped
2 serrano chilies finely sliced, divided
1/2 stick butter
1/3 cup flour
3 cups milk
16 oz (about 4 cups) Mexican Manchego (I always use Los Altos Brand), shredded
1 cup Los Altos Jocoque (Use 1/2 plain yogurt and 1/2 whole cream if you cant find jocoque.)
Salt, Pepper and Paprika to taste
Cook, drain and set aside the pasta.
In a medium to large saucepan, cook the bacon over medium heat. Once the bacon is crisp, remove and set aside.
Add the onions to the bacon grease, continuing to cook over medium heat until translucent. Add a little oil if your bacon didn't create enough grease.
Add HALF of the sliced serranos (Omit this step if you're not a spicy fan) and cook until onions and serranos are tender and cooked thoroughly. Adjust heat as needed to avoid burning the veggies/bacon grease.
Add butter, stirring until melted and combined.
Add flour, whisking constantly to create a roux. Allow roux to "toast" slightly for about a minute, whisking constantly to avoid burning the flour.
Add milk, all at once, whisking constantly.
Continue stirring and stirring and stirring because the milk will 100% scorch the minute you forget that you're supposed to be whisking it. Don't ask me how I know. LOL!
As soon as the milk thickens, begins to sort of migrate towards the center of the pan and begins to bubble, like THIS:
Add your cheese. Do not add the cheese before this point, the texture of your mac will be awful. You gotta wait for the motion and bubbling. :)
Whisk to combine, and then KILL THE HEAT. Continue stirring the cheese in until it is fully melted. The heat in the pot should be enough to melt it. Feel free to turn the burner on low to finish the process just don't leave it on too long. If you end up turning it on low to finish up the melting, be sure to turn it OFF again before proceeding to the next step.
Add the jocoque, whisking to combine.
Please note the fact that I'm also cooking extra bacon at my kids' request. Feel free to bacon it up. LOL!
Season as desired with salt and pepper.
Once fully combined, add cheese sauce to cooked and drained pasta.
Fold in and/or top with bacon. We did both. ;) Garnish with remaining fresh sliced serrano chilies and sprinkle with paprika if desired.
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