Keeping the troops well fed is a big part of how the military works, and Navy veteran and pop-up chef August Dannehl knows this better than most. In the WATM series “Thank You For Your Service” Augie cooks a four-course meal for his fellow vets, and each course is inspired by a veteran story from his or her time in uniform.
In this episode David Burnell remembers the times when he was a Marine, and he learned to enjoy a self-made concoction of mac and cheese using the jalapeño cheese packet and spaghetti noodle pack from the MRE. Here’s the recipe that chef August cooked together for David:
Habanero Mac and Cheese w/ Truffle, Leek and 3 Cheeses
Inspired by MRE Jalapeño Cheese Packet and Spaghetti Noodles
Salt and Pepper to Taste
1 Tsp. Olive Oil
1/2 Stick Unsalted Butter
1/4 Cup AP Flour
2 Cups Whole Milk
1 Cup Half Half
1 Tsp. Sweet Paprika
1 lb. Conchiglie (or shell pasta)
1 Cup Shredded Gruyère Cheese
1 Cup Shredded English White Cheddar(sharpest available)
1 Cup Shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
2 Tsp. Truffle Puree Preserves (or oil)
1 Large Leek
1 Large Habanero
2 Tbls. of Green Onion (for garnish)
Prepare the leek by splitting down lengthwise and soaking in cold water for 20 mins. Then shake out all silt from the leaves, discard the top, dark-green part and chop the rest.
Boil pasta in large saucepan of salted water until not quite al dente, about 2 minutes less than the package instructions. Drain and transfer to large bowl and dress with olive oil.
Seed and stem Habanero then julienne into tiny slices. Place into bowl of hot water and let steep for 1 hr (this removes some of the heat from the chili).
Make the cheese sauce by bringing a large saucepan to medium-high heat and melt 4 Tbs. butter. Add leaks and habanero and sweat for 5 mins.
Add flour and paprika and cook until no visible flour remains, about 2-3 mins. Whisk in milk and half half and large pinch of salt and bring to boil then simmer whisking out any lumps, about 4 minutes.
Add truffle puree and all cheeses and stir until smooth.
Once smooth, add pasta to sauce and mix until incorporated.
Add salt and pepper to taste and let stand 5 minutes before service.
Add pinch of sliced green onions for garnish and serve.