Chef Hobson Spices Up Thanksgiving With Jalapeno Mac 'N' Cheese

Nov 27, 2013
Originally published on November 27, 2013 1:46 pm

Spicy macaroni and cheese for Thanksgiving?

That’s the tradition at Here & Now host Jeremy Hobson’s family table — particularly when his sister, Boston chef Nicki Hobson, is cooking.

The picante version of the classic comfort food is one of Jeremy’s favorites, and the first dish the Hobsons polish off at their annual celebration.

Nicki Hobson visits Here & Now and shares the recipe for how she makes the classic fare, with a flare.

Nicki Hobson’s Jalapeño Mac ‘N’ Cheese


1 pound elbow pasta, cooked

2 raw jalapeño peppers, minced (Note: Jeremy likes it with New Mexico green chile instead)

4 ounces unsalted butter

1/4 pound all purpose flour

24 ounces whole milk

Green Tabasco sauce (to taste)

Red Tabasco sauce (to taste)

4 ounces cheddar cheese, grated*

4 ounces pecorino cheese, grated*

*Other cheeses can be substituted


Melt the butter in a heavy bottom sauce pan.

Whisk in the flour and let cook in the pan for several minutes, stirring constantly.

Add the milk, whisking constantly. Once the milk thickens, whisk in the cheese and Tabasco until fully incorporated.

Fold in the cooked pasta and jalapeño.

Season with salt and pepper.


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And we all have our Thanksgiving traditions. And in our family, a new one was born a few years ago when my sister, Nicki, who is a chef - she's the chef de cuisine at Island Creek Oyster Bar in Boston - brought home a mac and cheese, right? It was just a mac and cheese that you have left over from the restaurant, I think.

NICKI HOBSON: Right, from 51 Lincoln.

J. HOBSON: From 51 Lincoln, your former restaurant. And we put it on the table with everything else: mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, turkey...

N. HOBSON: Mm-hmm.

J. HOBSON: ...all the rest. And this was the thing that went faster than anything else.

N. HOBSON: It did go fast.

J. HOBSON: Everybody wanted it. So what is the secret to this?

N. HOBSON: Not much of a secret. It's a basic mac and cheese, just with a lot of love in it, I guess.

J. HOBSON: A lot of love and a lot of peppers as well.

N. HOBSON: And a lot of peppers. That's the key in our family: we spice it up with peppers.

J. HOBSON: We spice it up. We do like our spicy pepper. So this one has - it looks like red jalapenos? Is that what's in this?

N. HOBSON: These are red Fresno chilies.

J. HOBSON: Red Fresno chilies.

N. HOBSON: Normally, we would also love some green jalapenos in there. But you've changed it by adding green chilies.

J. HOBSON: I did, yes, because I thought that that's what it originally was. We have a little bit of a New Mexico connection in our family, and they love their green chilies in New Mexico. But you think it's just as good with the jalapenos?

N. HOBSON: I love it with the jalapenos. And fresh jalapenos, not - sometimes people sauté. It really love them raw right in there.

J. HOBSON: Raw right in there. OK. Well, while I'll take a bite of this, give us the one-minute version of how you make this mac and cheese.

N. HOBSON: OK. Well, I did a little thickening agent, whirl with flour and butter. And that's what I used to thicken the milk, added cheese, added mozzarella and cheddar in this one, a little pecorino as well.

J. HOBSON: But you could put any cheese in there.

N. HOBSON: You can put anything you want in there, anything you want. And just fold it in my cooked elbow macaroni pasta.

J. HOBSON: And you don't - but you don't have to do that. You could really put any kind of pasta.

N. HOBSON: Any pasta you want, sure. Of course. And then the - some green and red Tabasco to make it extra spicy for us.

J. HOBSON: Literally, you pour the Tabasco sauce into the mix?

N. HOBSON: Into the cheese mixture.

J. HOBSON: And then how long do you put it in the oven for?

N. HOBSON: I didn't put this in the oven at all.


N. HOBSON: You can serve it right away. If I were to, I'd probably top it with some more cheese just to get a nice and bubbly hot cheese on top or some bread crumbs, something like that, to crisp it up. It'll add texture.

J. HOBSON: So since the success of this at our Thanksgiving a few years ago...

N. HOBSON: Mm-hmm.

J. HOBSON: ...have you made it this as well?

N. HOBSON: I usually make it for the staff, actually, at the restaurant.

J. HOBSON: really

N. HOBSON: Yeah.

J. HOBSON: And it goes pretty well? It goes pretty quickly.

N. HOBSON: It goes very well. It goes quickly, yeah.

J. HOBSON: Can you use Sriracha?

N. HOBSON: Of course, you can use Sriracha in anything. No.


J. HOBSON: Although maybe not for long, because the factory - it sounds like - is having a few problems out in California. Does everybody like it spicy or do you sometimes have to tame it down a little bit, not with the Hobson level of spice?

N. HOBSON: Definitely, I've to tame it down from the Hobson level, yeah.

J. HOBSON: How spicy is this?

N. HOBSON: This is pretty family.


J. HOBSON: Why did you bother doing that? I wanted it to be much spicier than that. Let me try this. Yes, it is the peppers that does it.

N. HOBSON: Mm-hmm.

That is the secret.


J. HOBSON: Do I get to keep this?

N. HOBSON: You get to keep all of that.

J. HOBSON: Ah, good. OK. All done. Let's check one thing off the list for the Thanksgiving dinner. Well, Nicki, thanks so much. Happy Thanksgiving. We will put this recipe on our website so that it can go out there and make many Thanksgiving table very happy this season.

N. HOBSON: Great. Great. Thank you.

J. HOBSON: And that's that.


Well, Jeremy, how lucky. Have you have a chef in the family on Thanksgiving.

J. HOBSON: It is nice to have. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.