There are two areas of my culinary life that I’m working to improve these days: getting a handle on spicy heat and overcoming my skepticism of the Instant Pot.
Last year, I literally cooked my family out of the house when I used handful upon handful of Naga Morich peppers to make a hot sauce. This variety of capsicum registers among the highest on the Scoville scale for heat, and as I cooked them down, the volatile fumes blasted everywhere. It was a five-alarm pepper emergency that left us coughing and gasping for breath. I should mention that my husband was just days into a recovery from retinal surgery. Sorry, honey!
As for the Instant Pot, that was my husband’s idea. I was perfectly content with my slow cooker. And the pressure cooker I was accustomed to didn’t have a gazillion buttons to push. Plus, I’ve read all sorts of horror stories. I don’t want to burn my face or shoot rice into the ceiling when releasing the pressure valve.
But an old dog can learn new tricks. So when I ran across a mac and cheese recipe that called for the heat of peppers and cooking under pressure, my ears perked up.
The Creole-style Mac and Cheese recipe in the newly published “The Spicy Food Lovers’ Cookbook” by Michael Hultquist is a winner on many levels. Louisiana-style hot sauce, jalapeños, Creole seasoning and pepper jack cheese combine for a nice, multilayered — but still mediated — spice twist on a familiar favorite. And it’s a one-pot dish that’s 4-minutes-until-done (once the pressure sets in), which should perk up the ears of busy home cooks.
One step where I deviated from the recipe was post-pressure cooking, when it’s time to add the milk and cheese. Enough liquid remained from the cooking process that I didn’t need to add any milk. After stirring in the cheese, I re-secured the lid on the pressure cooker and let the dish rest about 5 minutes. The pasta soaked up all the remaining liquid. If you like a slightly runnier mac and cheese, go ahead and add the milk. Err on the judicious side, though. You can always add more.
The ingredient list is fairly flexible. I opted for medium-sized pasta shells for their nooks and crannies as much as for looks, chicken broth instead of water for flavor, and just 2 cups cheese, because there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.
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