Plantain Kale and Pork Mac and Cheese

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.
Cut up the plantains and cook them down in some butter. Make sure they are mostly black when you buy them so that they have a nice sweetness!
Habanero next.
The bechamel sauce is formed and the kale goes in next.
Then the pasta and cheese!  Once you stir this for a while everything comes together.  Pour it into a big baking dish or a bunch of small ones and put it into the oven.
So creamy, so cheesy.  The kale adds that earthy flavor and pairs so well with the plantains and pork.  I think that kale, pork, and plantain is one of the best combos of all time!
That little bit of pickled onion goes a long way! It really cuts the richness of the dish and makes it taste fresh.
The plantains are super sweet and pop in your mouth with a tropical flavor when you get a bite of one.
Sorry, I can't help but posting all these mouthwatering pictures.  I couldn't decide which ones to delete!

Plantain Kale and Pork Mac and Cheese

  • Pickled Onions
  • 1 Small Red Onion
  • 1 Cup Red Vinegar
  • 2 Cloves Garlic
  • 1 Teaspoon Mustard Seed
  • 1 Teaspoon Black Peppercorns
  • Mac and Cheese
  • 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 / Noodles (I like cellentani for mac and cheese)
  • 1.5 Cups Smoked Shredded Pork Sholder

Instructions

    Onions
    1. 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.
    Mac and Cheese
    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. Add the habanero and cook 2 minutes. Be careful breathing in during this phase!
    4. 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.
    5. Once it comes to a simmer and you see it thicken slightly, kill the heat and add in the kale. Stir.
    6. 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.
    7. Place the mixture into a baking dish or individual ramikins. Cool and then bake for an hour at 400, or alternatively, bake immedietly at 450 for 30 minutes.