How to Make Jalapeño-Bacon Mac and Cheese (Even When You're Drunk)

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Gooey, smoky, creamy, and spicy macaroni and cheese. J. Kenji López-Alt

I can count the number of times I've been involved in physical violence over food with two fingers on one hand. When I was 10 years old, I threw one of the metal legs of a mini trampoline at my older sister's door because I was convinced it was her fault that my tube of Life Savers Holes candy ended up full of broken bits after I'd thrown it at her and missed earlier. The second time was when I was working in a professional kitchen and pissed off another line cook so much that he threw an avocado at me. It splattered against the wall like green zombie guts. I can't remember why he was mad at me, but I'm sure that was my fault, too.

Point is, we've all been angry about food at some point or another, right? The only real solution is to just make more of the good stuff so that there's less to be angry about.

Take, for instance, bacon jalapeño mac and cheese. I've seen what deprivation can do to a person, and it's not pretty. Luckily, hot, fresh, gooey, creamy, spicy, bacon-y macaroni and cheese is just about 20 minutes away, and get this: It's easy enough that I'll bet you can make it even when you're drunk and angry. I know, because I just took six shots and watched videos of people toasting bagels just to put myself in the right mood to test this theory. The bacon-jalapeño mac and cheese came out perfect (and my mood was immediately soothed).

Once you've got the basics of gooey stovetop mac and cheese down, the rest is easy. In my stovetop mac and cheese recipe, I rely on the gooification powers of a number of excellent emulsifiers to keep my sauce creamy. Evaporated milk as a concentrated source of milk protein. Cornstarch for its thickening properties. Eggs for their ability to help sauce cling to noodles. A touch of American cheese for the added emulsifying salts that help my sharp cheddar melt smoothly.

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The only real extra step is incorporating the bacon and jalapeños. I start by frying diced bacon in a skillet until it's completely crisp, then I add some diced jalapeños off-heat. I started off with straight-up fresh green jalapeños, but found that a mixture of fresh red jalapeños (Fresno chilies or plain green jalapeños will also work fine) and some diced pickled jalapeños offered brighter flavor, along with a pleasing acidity. After adding the chilies, I use some of the liquid they give off to scrape up browned bits of bacon from the bottom of the skillet.

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Once that mixture is concocted, I cook my pasta by barely covering it with lightly salted water and bringing it to a boil (a much faster and more effective way to cook pasta than boiling it in a huge volume). Meanwhile, I mix together my evaporated milk and eggs and toss my cheeses with cornstarch.

My standard recipe calls for quite a bit of butter to be added to the noodles after cooking, but here I replace a good chunk of that butter with the rendered bacon fat from the skillet, which gives the entire dish a smoky aroma, even when you aren't getting any of the individual bits of crispy bacon in your mouth.

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There you go. I bet you can feel yourself calming down already.

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