My definition of a great cookbook is not based on the fact that it’s full of great recipes. It’s also not based on whether those recipe work as written: they should work as written. If they don’t, the book is a wall-thumper. My definition of a great cookbook is the ability of the author to inspire us through the recipes presented in the book. Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese, by Stephanie Stiavetti and Garrett McCord is that kind of cookbook.
This shells & cheese recipe is inspired by one in the book. Specifically, it’s inspired by a recipe that featured Beecher’s Flagship Cheddar. The other ingredients were avocado, lime and cilantro, ingredients so common in the cooking around San Antonio that my mind immediately added chorizo to the mix. Also, I figured a little queso fresco (a Mexican farmer’s cheese similar to Paneer), would be a great addition since Beecher’s Flagship Cheddar isn’t available here.
All credit for the base sauce recipe goes to Garrett and Stephanie. The Mornay used in this recipe isn’t just good. It’s not just inspired, or fantastic, or amazing. It’s more akin to a religious experience. Trust me, I don’t say that lightly. My additions only served to enhance it, but it’s phenomenal on its own and I’ll be using it as the basis for a few more recipes in the future.
The result is creamy, silky, and smooth, with notes of raw garlic, cilantro, lime and the heat of jalapeño and chorizo. In a word: Amazing.but one word just isn’t enough.
I’ve had a lot of different Mac-n-Cheese recipes in my life. I’ve made over half of them, using everything from cream cheese to exotic artisan cheeses, and I’ve never tasted anything like this. It’s inspired. It’s at a level I never thought shells & cheese could aspire to. it’s something that you, at home, need to make as soon as avocados are in season in your area. (They’re always available here, but you want them perfectly ripe.)
Let’s get cooking, shall we?!
- 6 ounces pork chorizo (Mexican style, not Spanish), casing removed.
- 1 jalapeño pepper, or 1 small Anaheim pepper
- The zest of 1 lime
- The juice of one lime
- 2 green onions, green parts only, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
- 3 ripe avocados, peeled and pitted, divided
- 16 ounces small shell pasta
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 Tablespoons flour
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- A few good grinds of black pepper
- 5 ounces extra sharp cheddar, grated
- 5 ounces queso fresco, crumbled
- 3/4 cup chopped cilantro
- Lime wedges and cilantro for garnish
- Remove the stem from the pepper and cut in half. Remove ribs and seeds. (or keep the seeds if you want more heat.) Toss the pepper into the bowl of a food processor along with the lime juice, lime zest, garlic,green onions and 2 of the avocados. Pulse in the food processor until everything is smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally. Set aside.
- Crumble the chorizo into a heated skillet and cook, stirring constantly, until done. (About 5 minutes.) Drain on paper towels or better, strain in a fine mesh sieve over a bowl.
- Cook pasta in a large pot of slated water until al dente. Drain, return to pot and cover to keep warm. Set aside.
- Place butter in a 2 to 3 quart saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, add the flour and stir until the flour is just browned. (I use a whisk for this, but a wooden spoon works well, too.) Add the milk and stir until the whisk just leaves visible trails in the sauce, or when the sauce coats the back of a spoon and a clear trail is left when you pull a finger through it
- Reduce heat to very low and stir in salt and pepper. Add cheese by handfuls, stirring until completely smooth before adding any more. Repeat until all cheese is blended in. Add avocado paste and stir until the sauce is (you guessed it, smooth.) Check for seasoning and add additional salt and pepper to taste.
- Pour sauce over pasta and stir to combine. Dice remaining avocado and toss with noodles. Serve hot garnished with cilantro and a splash of lime juice.
- Share and enjoy!
What I would have done differently had I thought of it at the time:
Nothing! Though this recipe has inspired several more that will be coming soon, including at least one soup and one sauce for chicken or pork.
Now, on to the giveaway!
Sorry, the giveaway is over. But you want this book, trust me! So head on over to Amazon or to your local bookstore and grab your copy of Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese. It’s some of the best money you’ll ever spend.