This is a multicultural mac and cheese! I love it. The great thing about mac and cheese is that it is adaptable and open to creative permutations. I adapted this recipe from howsweeteats.com, and though it took nearly two hours to make, it was well worth the wait. I made the following substitutions: I used winter melon instead of zucchini, pumpkin instead of summer squash, red wine vinegar instead of balsamic, and chorizo instead of ham. As it is very difficult to get havarti cheese in Bangkok, I used ordinary white supermarket cheese.
Roasted Asian Vegetable Mac and Cheese with Chorizo and Garlic-Panko Topping
Prep time: 40 minutes (includes roasting vegetables)
Bake time: 30 minutes
For Roasting Vegetables
4 cups fresh corn kernels (4 ears)
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cups winter melon, peeled, seeded, chopped (1/2 small winter melon)
2 cups pumpkin, peeled, seeded, chopped (1/2 small pumpkin)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon palm sugar dissolved in water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
For mac and cheese
2 cups chorizo sliced into 1/8 inch thick rounds
1 pound penne or small shell pasta
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 1/2 cups milk (2% or whole)
8 oz Havarti cheese
8 oz cheddar cheese
2 oz Parmesan cheese
6 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
pinch of salt
avocado slices for serving, optional
Maldon’s sea salt, optional
Preheat the oven to 400˚F/225˚C. Spray a 9×13 inch glass baking dish with cooking oil. Set aside. Cover a baking tray with foil. Set aside.
Remove the corn kernels from the cob and put in a large bowl with the pepper, onion, winter melon, and pumpkin. In a medium bowl, whisk the olive oil, vinegar, palm sugar solution, and salt and pepper. Spread the corn mixture evenly on the baking tray. Bake 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven and reduce heat to 350˚F/180˚C. Don’t wash out the bowl. Add the chorizo slices to the bowl, and when the vegetables are roasted add them to the sausage too.
Cook’s Note: I used the palm sugar solution to add a little sweetness to the dressing. And I also wanted it to caramelize the vegetables.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta. One to two minutes before the pasta is cooked, remove from heat. Drain and rinse the pasta. Add the undercooked pasta to the bowl with the chorizo and vegetables. In a small bowl, put the breadcrumbs and mix with the minced/pressed garlic and a pinch of salt. Set aside.
In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter over medium high heat. When it bubbles, add the flour and whisk continuously for 2 minutes until the mixture thickens and browns. This is called roux. Slowly pour the milk into the roux, stirring constantly. Heat until the milk thickens slightly. Add all except 1/2 cup of the grated Havarti/cheddar cheeses and all of the Parmesan. Taste and add salt and pepper.
Add the cheese sauce to the bowl with the sausage, vegetables, and pasta. Toss to coat thoroughly. Pour the mixture in the prepared baking dish. Smooth the top. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top, then the garlic-panko breadcrumb mixture. Bake 30 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly. Let the mac and cheese rest 10 minutes before serving. If desired, top with a slice of avocado sprinkled with a little sea salt. My husband prefers red pepper flakes on his mac and cheese.