Mac and cheese is a go-to for me to bring to a party because at this point I can pretty much make it in my sleep and it’s always a crowd pleaser. I brought this version to a party last weekend though, and two people said “I don’t normally like mac and cheese but this is delicious” Wait… what? You don’t like mac and cheese? Where are we? What is happening? Mixing smoked pork and sweet plantains into mac and cheese adds such a deep flavor that I couldn’t get enough of. It almost has a tropical vibe! The sour pickled onions on top add a freshness and cut through the richness of the dish.
The plantains are super sweet and pop in your mouth with a tropical flavor when you get a bite of one.
Plantain Kale and Pork Mac and Cheese
- 1 small red onion
- 1 cup red vinegar
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon mustard seed
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 3 yellow-black plantains peeled and large diced
- 3-5 habaneros seeds removed and minced
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 6 cups milk
- 1 bunch kale stems removed and chopped well
- 1 pound cheddar grated
- 8 ounces jack cheese grated
- 8 ounces cojita cheese crumbled
- 1 pound pasta I like cellentani for mac and cheese
- 1.5 cups smoked shredded pork shoulder
- Slice the onion and put it into a jar with the rest of the ingredients. Microwave for 1 minute. Cover and allow to sit 1 hour. Place in the fridge and serve once cool. Will last a few days.
- Bring pasta water to a boil and cook pasta. you want it to still have a real bite to it when you strain it, because it will continue to cook and then bake in the oven. Try and time this step so you can strain and add to the sauce almost immediately.
- Melt the butter in a large heavy bottom saucepan or dutch oven. Add the plantains and cook about 7 minutes stirring often to brown on all sides.
- Add the habanero and cook 2 minutes. Be careful breathing in during this phase!
- Add in the flour and stir well to form a roux. Add in the milk and bring to a simmer. Stir often so the milk doesn’t stick to the bottom and burn.
- Once it comes to a simmer and you see it thicken slightly, kill the heat and add in the kale. Stir.
- Add in the pasta and all the cheese. Stir well until the cheese is all incorporated. Add in the pork and mix well but leave it in somewhat big chunks, not totally shredded.
- Place the mixture into a baking dish or individual ramekins. bake immediately at 450 for 30 minutes. If you want to cool at this step and cook it later, cook for about an hour at 400