Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Recipe 19: Calabaza Queso Casserole (aka Pumpkin Mac and Cheese with Black Beans, Kale, Tomato, and Chili)

With their powers combined, you
too can have a delicious dinner!
I'll admit it.  I'm on a pumpkin bender.  But you know what?  I'm okay with that!  You will be too be when you try all of these recipes.  

While eagerly devouring my leftover Spicy Pumpkin Chili last week, I had the genius idea to put it on my leftover macaroni and cheese.  It was a very, very delicious decision.  Which made me ponder if I could hybridize the whole recipe.  And so I did, working from the recipe I often use to make really tasty mac and cheese.  

Making an appearance with my
experimentalpumpkin banana bread.
Below is what I came up with, using black beans instead of red kidney beans, and using double the kale and none of the meat.  I'm pretty confident you can throw in anything you want here and be fine.  I'd also like to encourage you to use three instead of my two cups of pasta, since this is a weird baked mac and cheese, not just a weird baked pumpkiny cheese chili-flavored kale thing.  

Feel free to add more cheese - the pumpkin cuts it a bit, so if you're all about the queso, don't hold back, Monterrey Jack!  If you try other ingredients in the fixin's mixture, let me know how it turns out!  I have a sneaking suspicion it'll taste delicious with sausage, different beans, spinach, bacon, etc.  By all means, get crazy with this!   It tastes awfully good with some extra cheese and sriracha...

Calabaza Queso Casserole
Serves 4-6
Calabeza Queso Casserole
(aka Pumpkin Mac and Cheese with Black Beans, Kale, Tomato, and Chili)

3 cups rotini pasta
1 medium onion, chopped
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
16 oz cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 4 oz can chopped green chilis
2 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne (more or less depending on taste)
1 bunch kale, torn into small pieces
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
3 cups milk
16 oz grated sharp cheddar cheese (save some to sprinkle on the top)
2-4 oz goat cheese (add more if you want it cheesier, duhs)
15 oz pumpkin (one can)
Salt and Pepper

1.  Cook your pasta, leaving it a weensy bit al dente and then drain it.  If you can't figure this step out, this recipe is not for you.
2.  Saute your onion in some olive oil over medium heat in a large frying pan for about 6 minutes, until they begin to brown up a bit.
3.  Add the beans, tomatoes, chilis, and spices, and saute for 3-4 minutes, stirring until well incorporated.
4.  Add the kale and cover.  After 4 minutes or so, remove the cover, stir to incorporate and recover.  Do this until the kale begins to wilt and lighten a bit in color, probably after 8 minutes or so.  Turn off the heat; you can stir in the pasta if you want to clear up some space on your counter.
5.  Preheat your oven to 350.
6.  In a medium to large sauce pot, melt your butter over medium heat.  When it starts to bubble, proceed to step seven.
7.  Whisk in the flour.  When the mixture begins to bubble, proceed to step eight.
8.  Warm 2 cups of your milk in the microwave, until it is warm but not hot to the touch.
9.  Begin to slowly whisk it into the sauce pan.
10.  When the milk is incorporated, lower the heat a bit and keep and eye on it.  You want it to start to simmer, but not turn into a full rolling boil that will make a mess of your stovetop!
11.  When the simmer is attained, lower the heat to maintain the temperature.
12.  Begin to whisk in the cheeses, one scoop or handful at a time.
13.  When the cheese is fully incorporated (and remember to save some for the top of the dish), add in the pumpkin one big dollop at a time, also whisking to fully incorporate before adding more.  Alternate with pours of the remaining cup of milk.
14.  Season to taste with pepper and salt if needed.
15.  Pour the sauce into the large frying pan and stir to coat the pasta and fixin's.
16.  Pour the mixture into a large Le Creuset sprayed with cooking spray or buttered.  Sprinkle with cheese and a few dashes of chili powder and cayenne.
17.  Bake for 20 minutes at 350, and then turn the oven up to a boil, baking for five more minutes or until the cheese on top gets really gooey and bubbly and maybe a bit brown.
18.  DEVOUR.  But let it cool a bit first.  The roof of your mouth will thank you.
If you close your eyes, this hot mess of Calabeza Queso Casserole
will look as good as it tastes...

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