Featured Wisconsin Cheeses: Pepper Jack, Cheddar
There are a crazy number of food holidays. I don’t know who comes up with these things, but these days it seems if you can think of a food, there is probably a day, week or even a month honoring that food. For the most part I pay no attention to these dates, save a few. National Grilled Cheese month in April is a no-brainer of course, and I cannot possibly resist Pi Day. I usually forget about chocolate chip cookie day until a reader reminds me, and then I absolutely must celebrate it. And of course, I absolutely will always celebrate Macaroni and Cheese Month which is now – January!
As I have in years past, I teamed up with my friends from the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board to create a new recipe in celebration of mac and cheese month. This year the theme is mac and cheese versions of other classic dishes. Many possibilities came to mind, but the accidental excess of bell peppers in my fridge combined with my near-constant craving for chicken fajitas led to this. Chicken fajita mac and cheese. If you’re a little wary of combining these two dishes, don’t worry – I was right there too. But one bite of this and I was sold. It far surpassed my expectations and now is one of my absolute top favorite mac and cheese recipes, a title I don’t take lightly.
Chicken Fajita Mac and Cheese
12 ounces pasta noodles, such as rotini
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Dash cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter
3 bell peppers (multiple colors), seeded and thinly sliced
1 small to medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 4-ounce can diced green chiles
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) Aged Wisconsin Cheddar Cheese, shredded*
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) Wisconsin Pepper Jack Cheese, shredded*
Preheat oven to 400˚F. Butter 2-quart baking dish. Bring large pot of water to boil; cook pasta according to package directions just until al dente. Drain well; set aside.
Meanwhile, heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken, cumin, paprika and cayenne to skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken is just cooked through and no longer pink. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove chicken to large bowl; set aside.
In same skillet, melt butter. Add sliced peppers and onion to pan and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Mix in garlic and green chiles; sauté about 2 minutes more. Remove from heat and transfer vegetable mixture to bowl with chicken. Add sour cream, shredded cheeses and pasta to vegetable and chicken bowl. Mix everything together until well combined. Transfer to prepared baking dish.
Bake 15 minutes, or until slightly browned and bubbling. Let cool briefly before serving.
*For best results, always use freshly shredded cheese.
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