Mac and Cheese and Beer with Chiles

There’s beer & cheese soup and there’s beer & cheese dip, but seldom does one hear about mac & cheese & beer unless at a gastropub. Why is this?? Beer and cheese go beautifully together; it makes sense to combine them in this classic American dish.

This is where the fun began. What beer to use?? Most recipes for beer & cheese soup or beer & cheese dip don’t specify what type of beer to use or they suggest a light lager. If you’re going to cook with beer – let the beer shine! Use something with flavor that will truly compliment the dish. That being said, I’ve definitely had my share of cooking with beer mishaps (cooking potatoes in an IPA is not a good idea) and I didn’t want to mess this one up, so I made two different types: hatch chile & IPA and chipotle & doppelbock. The results? Both were outrageously good, but also very different from each other. The IPA version really stepped up the traditional recipe, whereas the doppelbock version is an adventure for your tastebuds in the best possible way.

If you’re interested making both versions side by side like I did – have 2 pans going and halve the ingredient amounts below. The cheeses are also very interchangeable, so use what you enjoy, but use multiple types of cheese if you can. If I’ve learned anything from making an outrageous amount of mac n cheese over the years, it’s this: single cheese versions aren’t nearly as good as their multiple cheese counterparts.

IPA & Hatch Chile ingredients

  • 1 lb dried pasta (my favorite is cavatappi)
  • 1/3 cup finely diced onions
  • 1/3 cup chopped roasted hatch chiles (or roasted anaheim peppers)
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried mustard powder
  • 2 cups of whole milk
  • 1/2 cup of an IPA (I prefer a less bitter & less hop forward IPA like the 471 for most cooking)
  • 1/2 cup butter + 3 tbs
  • 4 tbs all-purpose flour
  • 4 ounces monterey jack
  • 4 ounces gruyere
  • 8 ounces cheddar
  • salt & pepper
  • panko bread crumbs
Doppelbock & Chipotle ingredients
  • 1 lb dried pasta
  • 1/3 cup finely diced onions
  • 2 – 4 chipotle peppers + 1 tbs of adobo
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup tomato sauce (optional)
  • 2 cups of whole milk
  • 1/2 cup doppelbock
  • 1/2 cup butter + 3 tbs
  • 4 tbs all-purpose flour
  • 8 ounces monterey jack
  • 8 ounces cheddar
  • salt & pepper
  • panko bread crumbs
Steps
  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil.
  2. Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the package.
  3. Drain the pasta and set aside.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375F.
  5. Melt 1/2 cup of butter over medium heat in a pan large enough to contain the pasta & additional ingredients.
  6. Saute the onions in the melted butter until soft, about 6 to 7 minutes.
  7. Whisk in the 4 tbs of flour.
  8. Continue to cook the flour/butter/onion mixture until it turns a light brown & begins to foam. This should take between 2 & 3 minutes, but watch it carefully & whisk frequently to prevent burning.
  9. Reduce the heat to medium low.
  10. If cooking the doppelbock version – add the tomato sauce & 1 tbs adobo and cook an additional minute.
  11. Slowly pour the milk & beer into the pan while whisking constantly.
  12. Whisk in any spices (garlic, mustard powder, salt, pepper, etc.)
  13. Cook the mixture, while continuing to stir frequently, until it begins to bubble & thicken, about 4 to 5 minutes.
  14. Turn the heat to very low and stir occasionally to prevent burning.
  15. Chop the chiles to the size that you want in your macaroni & cheese. I tend to cut the chipotle peppers into smaller pieces as they are substantially spicier.
  16. Add the chiles to the milk mixture.
  17. Slowly add the cheeses to the pan and mix until smooth and fully melted. Important: do not add additional liquid after this point or the cheese may loose the creamy texture.
  18. Add the noodles to the pan and carefully stir until evenly coated.
  19. Grease a 9×13 baking pan.
  20. Transfer the noodle & cheese mixture into the greased pan.
  21. Melt the remaining 4 tbs of butter over low heat.
  22. Pour over ~1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs and mix until the breadcrumbs are well coated.
  23. Bake uncovered for 25 minutes, until the cheese begins to bubble & the top turns a golden brown.
  24. Let stand 5-10 minutes before serving.
     
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