Baked Smoky Chipotle Mac n' Cheese with Grilled Corn
We were watching “Guy’s Grocery Games” the other night, as you do, and one of the contestants made a mac n’ cheese with grilled corn and lobster. My husband Ed and I are on the same page basically 24/7, so simultaneously we exclaimed, “Mac n’ cheese with corn!”
Sweet corn + salty cheese sauce sounded like the perfect combo, but it needed a little oopmh to prevent it from being too one-note. I had the idea to add in a bit of chipotle in adobo sauce. Chipotles, for the record, are actually just dried jalapeños. You can find chipotles in cans with adobo sauce, a tangy, slightly sweet red sauce. Use the chipotles for an intense smoky heat, or simply use the sauce for a similar flavor with less fire. Chipotles in adobo sauce are absolutely one of my favorite ingredients (check out these delicious Chipotle Veggie Tacos if you agree).
This dish is actually based off my Broccoli & Peas Mac n’ Cheese recipe from December 2018. The best part? It’s actually a lighter version of this traditionally fatty comfort food. My recipe calls for evaporated milk instead of heavy cream—heavy cream actually has more than twice the calories and five times the fat of evaporated milk. All the creaminess without the guilt…sign me up!
We spread the mac n’ cheese out in a round dish, topped it with whole wheat panko bread crumbs and baked it until it was golden brown and delicious. A garnish of chopped green onions adds a nice bit of brightness and bitterness. You’re going to love this #TreatYourself meal!
8 oz. box of pasta (we used Ancient Harvest Corn & Quinoa Shells)
2 ears of corn, shucked and silks removed
2 1/2 T. adobo sauce (throw in a whole chipotle pepper if you want it a bit spicier)
2 T. butter
1 1/4 c. evaporated milk
1 t. Dijon mustard
1 t. garlic powder
1 t. smoked paprika
8 oz. extra sharp white cheddar, shredded
4 oz. pepper jack cheese, shredded
About 1/2 a cup of whole wheat panko breadcrumbs
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
Splash of olive oil
Olive oil cooking spray
Chopped green onions to garnish (optional)
1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Shuck the corn, remove the silks and either brush with olive oil or spray with olive oil cooking spray. Turn your grill on high heat and place the corn onto the grill. You want the corn to get fully browned, so flip it every couple of minutes and close the lid of the grill after flipping. This process will take about 20 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes before using a knife to remove the kernels from the corn.
2) Bring a large part of water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions (it’s ok if it’s a bit al dente since you’ll be baking the pasta). Drain and toss with a splash of olive oil to prevent the pasta from sticking.
3) Place a Dutch oven on the stove and turn the burner on medium-low heat. Add the butter and, once melted, stir in the evaporated milk. Whisk consistently so that any browned bits on the bottom are thoroughly dissolved.
4) Add the garlic powder and smoked paprika and season heavily with freshly cracked black pepper. Whisk well. Add the adobo sauce (and a chipotle, if desired) and whisk well again.
5) Once the mixture is hot, add the cheese a bit at a time, whisking constantly and allowing the cheese to melt before adding another handful. Once all the cheese has been added and is melted, turn the heat to low.
6) Remove the Dutch oven from the stove. Pour the pasta into a large bowl and add the corn kernels. Gradually pour the cheese sauce into the bowl, reserving about 1/4 c. of sauce. Toss the mixture well to combine and season with additional pepper if desired.
7) Use a spatula to spread a bit of the reserved sauce on the bottom of a 9 in. x 9 in. round baking dish. Pour the pasta into the dish and spread it out evenly. Sprinkle the top with top with the bread crumbs (not too much, just a nice even layer) and drizzle on the remaining reserved cheese sauce.
8) Cook uncovered for 15 minutes. Turn the oven off and allow the dish to sit in the oven for another 10 minutes. Remove the dish from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Serve the mac n’ cheese and top with chopped green onions, if desired.