I’ve lived in my house for 23 years, and I can just about count on my fingers and toes how many trick-or-treaters I’ve had TOTAL. There are no sidewalks or streetlights (it was a county pocket forever, and even after we were incorporated into the city limits, no upgrades happened) so it’s not really a safe walking area, and once the kids across the street grew up (one has his OWN baby now), I stopped getting any, and Halloween was just another night.
Fortunately, after my siblings started providing me with nieces and nephews, my sister started hosting Halloween at her house (which gets LOTS of kids in costumes looking for free candy) and a “Chili Cookoff” challenge was issued. There are FIVE households. We had SO MUCH CHILI. I don’t even LIKE chili and I made chili. (A white bean chicken ranch version, but it was chili.)
After a couple of years, the competition element faded and now not everyone brings chili every year – I’m often one of the “not everyone,” I frequently prefer to supply the cornbread– but obviously this year, it was time to explore the world of Chili Mac & Cheese.
What I found was that most recipes are chili, with a few noodles dumped in and some grated cheese sprinkled on top. I’m sorry, but that is NOT chili mac & cheese, that is chili with noodles topped with cheese.
But I persevered and found this version which truly is a marriage of both dishes. Of course, it’s twice as much work since you’re essentially making two separate recipes and then combining them. I’m glad Halloween was on a Saturday, this is not a “whip it together on a weeknight” kind of dish, especially when you have to make a last-minute grocery store run because you’re out of milk.
Adapted from The Food Network
For the chili:
- 2 Tbsp. oil
- 1 small red onion, diced
- 4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 pound ground beef
- 2 tsp. chili powder
- 1½ tsp. cumin
- 1 tsp. paprika
- ½ tsp. oregano
- 15 ounce can of kidney beans (DO NOT DRAIN)
- 14½ ounce can of diced tomatoes (DO NOT DRAIN)
- 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
For the mac & cheese:
- 8 ounces elbow macaroni
- 2 Tbsp. butter (see notes)
- 2 Tbsp. flour (see notes)
- 2 cups whole milk
- 4 ounces cream cheese
- 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
- 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
- Heat the oil in a deep sided skillet over medium heat.
- Add the onion and saute 2-3 minutes until softened.
- Add the garlic and cook another 3-4 minutes, but do not let it burn.
- Add the ground beef and sprinkle with kosher salt and cook until browned, breaking it up as it cooks.
- Add the spices and cook a couple more minutes.
- Add the beans with liquid and the tomatoes with liquid, and the tomato paste, and simmer for 10 minutes.
Mac & cheese
- Bring a pan of water to a boil, add salt, and cook macaroni for 8 minutes. Drain, rinse, and set aside.
- Melt the butter over medium heat, then add flour and whisk continually for 2-3 minutes.
- Add milk and raise heat to medium-high and cook until it just begins to bubble.
- Reduce heat and add the mustard and Worcestershire sauce.
- Add the cream cheese and shredded cheeses and stir until melted.
- Add the pasta and stir to combine
Combine the chili and the mac and cheese in a large bowl (I put it in my big crockpot for transport and reheating).
As mentioned, I’m not particularly a chili fan and I liked this just fine. There were a lot of comments on the original site about it not being spicy enough, so maybe that’s why I liked it. If you want it hotter, I’d recommend doubling the chili powder, and/or adding some cayenne pepper. It’s a very hearty, filling dish that’s nice for a cold fall evening.
- I thought the amount of butter and flour seemed low, and sure enough, the sauce just would not thicken after I added the milk to the roux. I dumped in a little more of each, but it really doesn’t work that way, the flour got all clumpy and the sauce still didn’t thicken, so next time I would just double both from the start.
Posted November 3, 2020