Buttermilk and Bourbon: New Orleans Recipes with a Modern Flair

Flamin’ Hot Cheeto Mac and Cheese

Jason Santos is restauranteur who owns Buttermilk & Bourbon, a Louisiana-centric restaurant in Boston as well as Citrus & Salt, a coastal Mexican restaurant in Boston’s Back Bay as well as his new B & B Fish in Marblehead, featuring coastal New England summertime favorites with Jason’s signature twists.

Santos also is a recurring guest on the Today Show, the CBS Early Show, the CBS television show The Talk, and subsequent seasons of Hell’s Kitchen and appears regularly on the popular Paramount TV hit show, Bar Rescue – where he rehabilitates failing restaurants and bars as a restaurant consultant alongside Jon Taffer. Also look for him on season 19 of Fox’s hit show Hell’s Kitchen along with Chef Gordon Ramsay as his sous chef for the Blue Team. 

 In his cookbook, Buttermilk & Bourbon: New Orleans Recipes with a Modern Flair (Page Street Publishing $15.29 Amazon price), offers up some great recipes such as Deviled Egg Toast with Country Ham and Hot Pepper Salad, Cast Iron-Baked Brie, and Flamin’ Hot Cheeto Mac & Cheese, the most popular dish at his restaurant. 

Flamin’ Hot Cheeto Mac & Cheese

Serves 4

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

1 cup  meat scraps, diced (bacon, andouille, pork belly, ham, etc.)

½ cup  diced celery

¾ cup diced shallots

1 tablespoon  minced garlic

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 cup white wine

2 bay leaves

1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped

8 ounces cream cheese

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup half & half

½ cup  grated Parmesan cheese

½ cup shredded fontina

½ cup shredded yellow cheddar

½ cup shredded gouda

½ pound  campanelle pasta, cooked (can substitute fusilli, penne, rigatoni, macaroni, or rotini

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 cup spicy cheese puffs (I like Flamin’ Hot Cheetos), slightly crushed

¼ cup minced chives

½ cup spicy cheese puffs, whole

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. In a heavy-bottomed pot, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter and sauté the meat scraps until lightly browned, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the meat, reserving the fat. Then add the celery, shallots and garlic and cook until soft, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook for another 3 minutes to incorporate.

Deglaze with the wine and reduce by half, about 10 minutes. Add the bay leaves, thyme, cream cheese, heavy cream, and half & half. Bring to a simmer for 10 minutes. Add the Parmesan, fontina, cheddar and gouda and simmer for 10 more minutes. Remove the bay leaves and puree the entire mixture with a stick blender (or in batches using a regular blender/food processor). Add the meat scraps back to the pot.

Combine the sauce with pasta and season with salt and pepper.

Divide the mixture into 4 casserole dishes. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and combine with the crushed Cheetos, and scatter on top of the pasta mixture. Bake for about 7 minutes or until bubbly. Garnish with chives and the whole Cheetos