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Cooking With Fire: Mac & Cheese

Justin Cary

Macaroni and cheese is a staple of many pantries in the United States. The ubiquitous blue box has been around since 1937 and is as synonymous with the dish as McDonald’s is to the hamburger or Olive Garden is to endless breadsticks.

But it didn't start in a box — so where did mac and cheese come from? You would be correct if you assumed it was Italian in origin — though modern macaroni and cheese is quite different from the original recipe that can be found in the Book of Cookery, an Italian cookbook by an anonymous author that was published some time in the thirteenth or fourteenth century.

In this book, a dish simply titled "lasagna" used a fermented dough noodle cut into two-inch strips that were cooked and then tossed with grated cheese. It then calls for dried spices and layering cheese between the sheets of lasagna if desired.

Fast forward a few hundred years to the 18th century and mac & cheese finally made its way across the ocean to the U.S. with a little help from President Thomas Jefferson. Oh, and the rumor you may have heard about Jefferson inventing the dish: It’s not true.

He was, however, introduced to the cheesy pasta in Paris in the mid 1700s and brought recipes back with him to the states. But when Jefferson had macaroni and cheese served in his White House, the chefs were using the recipe from the 1769 cookbook the Experienced English Housekeeper. This iteration most closely mirrors our modern version and paved the way for that little blue box loved by kids.

In this episode of Cooking With Fire, we tackle Green Chili Mac & Cheese. Enjoy!

[audio pending]

Green Chili Mac & Cheese

12 servings

Ingredients

  • 16 oz elbow macaroni
  • 6 cups whole milk
  • 3 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 12 oz sharp cheddar, grated
  • 12 oz pepper jack, grated
  • 1/2 cup roasted green chiles, diced
  • 4 oz bread crumbs
  • Salt & pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat your smoker to 250ºF. 
  2. In a half sized steam table food pan, combine the uncooked macaroni, milk, heavy cream, cheeses, green chiles. 2 teaspoons salt and fresh crack black pepper. Carefully mix the ingredients. 
  3. Place the pan in the smoker. 
  4. After one hour, stir the ingredients with a wooden spatula. Scrape the bottom of the pan to prevent scorching. 
  5. Continue cooking for another hour. You should have a creamy mixture, with little standing liquid. Taste and add salt as necessary. 
  6. Sprinkle the bread crumb topping over the pan, and spread evenly. Cook an additional 30 minutes, until bread crumb begins to brown and the liquid is bubbling up through the topping. The finished product should be creamy, but not runny.
Josh Cary may be the eCommerce Director at All Things Barbecue during the day, but at night he takes on the mantle of an award-winning Pitmaster, who has cooked on the competition barbecue circuit under various team names including ATBBQ, Yoder Smokers and the Que Tang Clan.
All Things Barbecue Staff Chef Tom Jackson is a Kansas native, born and raised in Wichita. In 2008 he and his wife moved to Portland, Oregon, where he attended Oregon Culinary Institute. Tom studied both general culinary skills as well as baking and pastry while working as a cook in a variety of restaurants. After graduating from Oregon Culinary Institute he began working as a bread baker and pastry chef at the renowned Ken’s Artisan Bakery in northwest Portland. He spent more than four years honing his skills under James Beard Award winning chef and owner Ken Forkish. In that time he and his wife had their first child, and the draw of home and family grew stronger. Longtime friends of the Cary family, owners of All Things Barbecue, they returned to Kansas to help All Things Barbecue continue to excel in their cooking classes. Tom has been further developing and building cooking classes and private events at All Things Barbecue since March 2014.