You can add “forgo dinner at home most nights and drag the family to Freebirds for a steak or chicken burrito bowl” to the list of things I’d do if money grew on trees around here. Right above that – never washing or flat-ironing my hair again.
And since money doesn’t grow on trees, butterfly clip or ponytail it is.
But because they’re so stinking easy to make at home, I can dump a bunch of burrito fixins into a bowl, call it a burrito bowl, crank up the theme song to Supernatural (Carry on my wayward so-oon!), and pretend I’m at Freebirds.
Our burrito bowls start with a super simple cilantro-lime quinoa (a compromise since I don’t really eat rice anymore), black or pinto beans, leftover diced chicken or steak, cheese, pico de gallo, a spicy tomatillo salsa, and extra jalapenos or serranos – because you can’t take your tastebuds with you when you die.
With hatch chiles everywhere right now, including the floor of my kitchen – don’t ask, we added a couple of the smokey, sweet chiles to the pico de gallo.
Minus the scoop of queso Jason usually adds to his burrito (were we just meant to be, or what?!), it’s just like eating at Freebirds. I do have to clean the kitchen but I can afford to keep the lights on around here
Chicken Burrito Bowls with Hatch Chile Pico de Gallo
Raise your hand if you, too, are excited about hatch chile season!
Why do I love hatch chiles? They’re sweeter and less bitter than most other peppers. They’re not overly spicy but the “hot” hatch chiles do have a nice amount of casual heat. And at $.48/lb this week, I’ll be spending my Saturday roasting and stocking the freezer for the upcoming year. Because nothing makes me happier than being able to whip up a hatch & pepperoni pizza. In February.
We’ve got several new hatch chile recipes lined up over the next couple of weeks but we’re starting with possibly the best one. And by possibly, I mean we’ve had Hatch Chile Macaroni & Cheese twice this week. Once, with leftover shredded chicken. And the second time, I added bacon.
All in the name of more protein. (Which is really the only excuse one ever needs for more bacon, if an excuse is actually needed.)
Pasta coated with a creamy white cheese sauce is the perfect vehicle for the sweet and smokey hatch chiles. We make our stovetop mac & cheese a little differently than most – we use fat-free Greek yogurt (adds protein and tanginess), some of the starchy pasta water (helps create the smooth sauce), and a combination of just about any cheese (one easy melting and one not) that we – or you – like.
You can read more about it here. Or you can just blindly follow the recipe below. I think you’ll be happy with your bowl of cheesy, creamy, spicy comfort either way.
Hatch Chile and Bacon Mac & Cheese
A stove top macaroni & cheese crafted just for hatch chile season. Make it while you can!
*Do not use pre-shredded cheese. You can use as much as 5-6 oz Monterrey Jack and as little as 2-3oz American cheese and still get a nice, smooth sauce.
Bring salted water to boil and add pasta, cooking according to package directions.
While the water is coming to a boil and the pasta is cooking, shred the cheese, chop your chiles, and measure out the yogurt.
Before draining the pasta, dip a 1-cup measuring cup into the pot and pull out a full cup of the boiling pasta water - this is important. If you think you'll forget, put your measuring cup in the strainer when you put it in the sink - always a good way to remind yourself before you lose the water.
Drain the pasta and return it to the pot.
Immediately add 1/2 cup of the pasta water, the yogurt and 1/3 of the cheese, stirring until the cheese has mostly melted.
Add the remaining cheese in two batches, stirring until the cheese has melted into a smooth sauce. Add additional splashes of water as necessary to keep the sauce thin and the cheese hot (I usually have anywhere from 2-4Tbsp of pasta water left).
Add the chiles, bacon, and black pepper, stirring until evenly distributed.
Crawfish boils are kind of a big deal here in Houston. And by kind of a big deal, I mean how much more fun could a person want to have besides drinking beer (ahem, grapefruit margaritas), standing around a gigantic pot filled to the brim with corn, potatoes, crawfish, and scary amounts of cayenne pepper.
All that’s turned out onto a large table covered with newspaper. Suddenly, it’s the ultimate, informal family style experience.
I’ve developed a new appreciation for crawfish this year. You see, I’ve always had this thing with crawfish… or against crawfish.
Really, my thing has to do with getting to the actual crawfish. It’s not the most appealing thing. But a few grapefruit margaritas seem to take care of all of that and I found myself peeling away.
My friend Harmony says peeling crawfish is therapeutic. And I’d agree… all the way up until my fingers began to burn. And that really just meant it was time for another margarita.
Harmony sent us away with a bunch of leftover crawfish and the orders to “make something awesome” with it. And something awesome we made.
I whipped up my favorite stove top mac & cheese and added the leftover crawfish and the spicy corn cut away from the cob. If you already think that a pile of spicy crawfish is pretty much a perfect food on its own, try it in a big bowl of carbs, covered in a light cheesy sauce.
The rest of the leftovers went into the freezer until I have the chance to make something awesome for Harmony
Crawfish Mac & Cheese
Crawfish boil leftovers get new life in a creamy stove top mac & cheese.
8 oz macaroni pasta
4 oz white cheddar cheese, grated (don't use pre-shred)
4 oz fontina
1/2 cup fat-free Greek yogurt (I use 0% Fage)
1 Tbsp Creole (or other spicy brown) mustard
1 cup leftover crawfish tails
Kernels from 1-2 leftover corn cobs
Sliced dark green onions, for serving
Cook macaroni pasta for 8-10 minutes in salted water, until al dente.
Reserve 1 cup pasta water before draining the pasta.
Drain the pasta and return it to the pot.
Add 1/4 cup pasta water, the yogurt, several dashes of Tobasco, mustard, and 1/3 of the grated cheese and stir until the cheese has melted.
Stir in remaining cheese, one small handful at a time to prevent clumping, adding additional pasta water as necessary to thin the cheese sauce.
Stir in crawfish and corn kernels, and serve immediately topped with green onions.
To reheat, microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring in between. Add a tablespoon or two of skim milk or water to thin the sauce, if necessary.
Spring is just around the corner! You can tell because we’re already gardening. And swimming. And every restaurant around here without the words “happy meal” or “value size” on their menu has a banner hanging off the front of the building with one single 8-letter word:
But even better than that? Pulling up to your grocery store and finding a crawfish boil going on right next to the big plastic truck kiddie shopping carts.
Three years ago I swore that I’d never use those things. And then The Little got old enough to realize how “awesome” the carts were and started throwing tantrums. So it was 1) die a little inside and push a kiddie cart or 2) eat a mustard sandwich for dinner.
Mustard sandwiches aren’t nearly as good as Crawfish Fettuccine.
Now, I’ve come to realize that the inventor of those things was a genius. You know what a Terrible Two/Three doesn’t care about? EVERYTHING. As long as they have a shopping cart with a fake steering wheel to keep them busy while you’re digging through the bins trying to find the perfect limes for margaritas.
Even the liquor stores out here have them. God Bless Suburbia.
I picked up a kiddie cart (I’m partial to the black one with flames on the side) and 2.5lbs of already cooked (doesn’t get better than that) crawfish for a couple of dishes, but after my husband finished peeling them (I do not peel crawfish), I only had enough for one.
So I tried to make it count.
I whipped up our favorite (and light!) alfredo sauce and then spiked it with Tobasco and creole mustard. A few simple flavors with a little heat turned into a pretty phenomenal dinner. It wasn’t so spicy that my 3-year old couldn’t eat it but enough to make it not-your-everyday alfredo sauce.
Turn up the heat on a light and flavorful alfredo sauce with hot sauce and crawfish.
8 oz fettuccine noodles, uncooked
2 tsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
2 green onions, chopped (dark green parts reserved for garnish)
2/3 cup milk (I use 2%)
3 oz (6 Tbsp) neufchatel
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/2 tsp Tobasco
1 rounded tsp creole mustard (or other deli- or dijon-style mustard)
12 oz cooked and peeled crawfish tails
Cook pasta in salted water per package instructions.
Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and then drain pasta and set aside.
In a sauce pan, heat olive oil over medium heat.
Cook garlic and white and light green parts of the onion just until garlic begins to brown.
Add 1/2 cup reserved pasta water, milk, and cream cheese, stirring until the cream cheese has mostly melted.
Add Parmesan, tobasco, and mustard, stirring until the cheese has melted and the sauce is mostly smooth.
Add cooked pasta and crawfish tails, tossing with tongs or two large spoons to coat.
Add additional splashes of pasta water as necessary while tossing the pasta to smooth the sauce and ensure everything is coated.