When you have a big, fat Cuban family, you are aware that it takes a lot to not just feed, but satisfy them. With Easter on the way, I'm already planning a super satisfying brunch menu. Then again, what does satisfying look like?
Here's how my thinking went...
I need to make something 'satisfying.' What implies 'satisfying' and filling, but also comforting. And Cuban. Let's not forget Cuban.
I had a list of things I could make. Primarily what came to mind was a good Cubano Sandwich: Ham, pork, cheese, and pickles grilled on Cuban bread. (It's possible I could just be having a craving, but that's not important right now.) I had to think long and hard. Would that be a good complement to our Easter brunch? I was this close to just making some straight-up-old-school Cubanos and calling it good. But we're talking about Easter. And Brunch. And I knew I could take it up a notch. And with the help of my friends at Cacique®, that's exactly what happened.
Like good ideas often do, it struck me like lightning. What if I made a nice, comforting and seriously satisfying Mac and Cheese A LO CUBANO??
Like, a Cuban Sandwich. But in Mac and Cheese form. Are you beginning to see the genius of this? To the kitchen we go!
So, once I decided that this would be an awesome Easter Brunch addition, I had to come up with just the right ratio of ingredients to make it happen. First of all, I knew that the traditional swiss cheese used in a Cubano sandwich wouldn't work like I wanted in the mac and cheese, so I opted for the delicious Cacique® Manchego Cheese, which would give me just the right amount of flavor and meltiness. (<--Is that a word?)
I decided to use fresh baguette bread crumbs because, from where I live, I have to travel through multiple area codes to procure Cuban bread. *le sigh* Also, I happen to like my breadcrumbs super fresh, and a little bit thicker than fine breadcrumbs to add a nice bready texture to the dish. Because Cubano!
In keeping with trying to maintain the traditional Cubano taste, I included dry mustard (instead of regular) and believe it or not I went ahead and added the bread and butter pickles because they would add that little bit of kick that pickles add to a regular Cubano without overpowering the delicious mac and cheese meltiness. (Who's in charge of making up words? I think this is a good one.)
Then I knew I would want a shredded cheese topping that would not just melt, but also brown slightly. Enter Cacique® Four Quesos Blend Shredded Cheeses. I feel like I should go ahead and take a bow right now.
Drum roll, please...
Cubano Mac and Cheese Recipe
- 6 oz fresh bread crumbs. (I use fresh bread and make the crumbs using my food processor.)
- 1 pound uncooked elbow macaroni
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) Butter
- 1 cup flour
- 4 cups hot milk
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon dry mustard
- 16 ounces Cacique® Manchego Cheese, grated (about 4 cups)
- 1/4 pound ham, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (a ham steak works really well here)
- 1/4 pound sliced roast pork, cut into 1/2-inch pieces - Here's my easy slow-cooker roast pork recipe.
- 1/2 cup bread and butter pickles, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
- Cacique® Four Quesos Blend Shredded Cheeses
1) Preheat oven to 350ºF. Lightly grease 9-by-13-inch baking dish or coat with cooking spray. Set aside.
2) Cook the pasta according to package directions, substituting the chicken broth for water. This adds a lovely flavor to the pasta. Cook until almost done (al dente). Drain well, transfer to large bowl and set aside.
3) Pulse bread in food processor into coarse crumbs (you will need about 1 cup).
4) Melt butter in heavy-bottomed pot or saucepan over medium heat; whisk in flour until well blended. Continue whisking for another minute or two. Do not let mixture brown.
5) Gradually whisk in hot milk and keep stirring for a few more minutes. Whisk in dry mustard and kosher salt until well blended.
6) Add grated Cacique® Manchego Cheese, stirring until melted and blended. Reduce heat to low and stir for 3 to 4 minutes longer.
7) Stir about half of cheese sauce into pasta.
8) Add ham, roast pork, pickles and remaining cheese sauce and mix again.
9) Place mixture in the prepared baking dish.
10) Sprinkle breadcrumbs evenly over top.
11) Sprinkle Cacique® Four Quesos Blend Shredded Cheeses over everything. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until hot and bubbly.
When you taste the final product you will be amazed that it actually tastes not only satisfying and comforting but Oh. So. Very. Cubano. #success
Be sure to use a really big spoon so that you can get every one of those deliciously Cuban flavors in every bite. Easter Brunch just got amazing.
- Yield: About 16 servings
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Cooking Time: 20 - 25 minutes at 350° Degrees F.