All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2012
OK – this recipe made enough for 30+ people probably. It filled a Martha Stewart 7 quart casserole pan to the brim. Those suckers are made of cast iron & weigh a shit-ton empty. With this dense recipe inside – I could barely lift the pot & bend over to get it in the stove.
A quick aside about these awesome Martha Stewart pots – that I once suggested folks buy cheap on Ebay – there has, it seems, been a recall. Look at these guys, though:
I got each of mine for probably close to $50 because they had minor chips in the enamel. Not INSIDE the pots – but on the cosmetic exteriors. I don’t care about the exteriors – and I love these pots. But today, while researching the size mine are for this blog – I found a year old recall notice. It read:
Hazard: The enamel coating on the cast iron casseroles can crack or break during use. This can cause the enamel to crack and fly off as a projectile, posing a risk of laceration or burn hazard to the user or bystanders.
Incidents/Injuries: Macy’s has received two reports of the enamel cracking and flying off of the casseroles during use. No injuries have been reported.
A Macy’s number was provided for more info. I called it. They said Macy’s will give you all your money with a receipt or the “average price paid” for the item if you do not have a receipt. I researched what folks had been given for their receipt-less returns & they seemed to average between $42-$99, depending on which pot, which Macy’s & which department manager you dealt with. These guys originally retailed for $170 – so people are pissed. And – FTW – I am just gonna risk shrapnel & burns because I cannot replace these two guys – even if I get $200 in credit. They are already pretty scuffed on the outside. Maybe that has released the pressure and I will be safe. I don’t know. I mainly cook with these INSIDE the oven rather than stove top – so – I’m not lugging 40 pounds of iron into the mall only to be handed an $82 store credit. Harumph!
This recipe is not a science. There is MUCH wiggle room & you can adjust the quantity of ingredients to suit your tastes. Some people like dry mac & cheese – some like it wetter. I belong to the latter category but will pretty much eat any mac & cheese I find myself in front of – assuming it is meatless. Do not be freaked out by the quantity of garlic & of jalapenos. I couldn’t really taste the impact of either – despite my mother’s bugged eyes as she witness me chop 14 jalapeno peppers and 20 cloves of garlic. They seemed to blend in quite nicely. Also – I used random cheeses I already had – like extra burrata & fresh mozzarella. Any similar quantity of other mild cheeses would suffice.
Remember – this recipe is for 7 quarts of mac & cheese – enough for a very large group of people. Also – while I am calling it a SWEET POTATO recipe – I used YAMS because of their brighter color.
However – you might want to read this bit I found explaining that these guys I am calling yams – are REALLY sweet potatoes. Who knew?
In the United States, most tubers sold as yams are actually members of the sweet potato family. Your Garnets, your Jewels, the “yams” with the rich orange flesh and reddish-brown exterior, are, botanically, sweet potatoes. In fact, it’s quite likely that the vast majority of my readers – even the active ones including more carbohydrate in their diets – have never tasted a true yam. The reason for this discrepancy is simple marketing: back in the mid-20th century, when orange-fleshed sweet potatoes were introduced into the United States, they were labeled “yams” to avoid confusion with the common white-fleshed sweet potato Americans were already enjoying. “Yam” was derived either from the Spanish “name” or Portuguese “inhame,” both of which come from the Wolof word “nyam,” which means “to sample” or “to taste.” Another African language uses “yamyam” for “to chew,” which should give you some idea of the starchy tuber’s importance in local diets – as well as the level of mastication required for its consumption.
Sweet Potato & Jalapeno Macaroni and Cheese
PRE-HEAT OVEN TO 350 DEGREES
26 cloves garlic
3 large Yams (or sweet potatoes) peeled & cut into 1/4 inch disks
6 TBS olive oil
1.5 lbs pasta (I used half corkscrew & half some kinda tubey pasta)
10 TBS butter
12 TBS flour
8 cups whole milk
6 cups shredded cheese (use a blend of mozzarella and/or cheddar and/or Italian or Mexican blend cheeses)
6 TBS chopped fresh rosemary
14 jalapenos – seeded & diced (food processor is handy here) – chop even more than 14 if you want to garnish the finished mac & cheese with fresh, uncooked peppers.
S&P to taste
BREAD CRUMB MIXTURE – optional
1 cup bread crumbs
1 cup grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese
4 TBS olive oil
PRE-HEAT OVEN TO 350 DEGREES
In a large pot – boil the sliced yams & 20 (reserving 6) garlic cloves until the yams have softened. Maybe 5 minutes. Remove them from the pot with a slotted spoon & re-use the hot water to boil your pasta (according to package directions). Cook the pasta maybe one minute less than the package says to assure it is al dente. Drain & set aside.
Once cool enough to handle (put the yams & garlic under cold running water to cool) – put the 20 cloves of garlic through a garlic press (or chop or mash another way) & set aside.
Dice the boiled yams. Heat the olive oil in a large pan & saute the diced yams until they begin to caramelize. This could take up to ten minutes.
Melt the butter – over low heat – in a large sauce pan & then add the flour. Whisk until it is incorporated. Up the flame to medium & gradually whisk in 6 cups of the milk (reserving 2 cups for later). Stir constantly until all the milk is incorporated & it begins to thicken a bit. It should be like unset pudding. Thicker than that & mixing in the cheese will get difficult.
Mince the remaining 6 cloves of garlic. Add both forms of garlic, most of the jalapeno (reserving a good handful for a topping later), the yams, rosemary, cheeses (reserving a fat handful for topping later) and pasta. Add salt & pepper to taste. Stir to combine.
Grease either a very large 7 quart casserole – or several smaller ones – and carefully transfer HALF the mixture into the cooking pans. Pour one cup of the reserved milk over the mac & cheese in the pan(s) & then top with the remainder of the mac & cheese. Pour the rest of the milk on top of this. Top with the remaining cheese & jalapenos (reserving some – if you chose to – to add raw at the end as a garnish).
This can be topped with a bread crumb mixture – though I opted not to. To make the bread crumb mixture – just whisk the crumbs, olive oil & cheese together & sprinkle on top of the macaroni.
Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes – or until bubbly (golden – if using bread crumbs). Let this sit a good ten minutes before serving.