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In the culinary world, where countless recipes vie for attention, only a few succeed in captivating the taste buds and hearts of food enthusiasts worldwide. One such recipe that has recently taken the social media platforms by storm belongs to Ruben Santana, owner of a well-loved BBQ joint tucked in the heart of the Dumbo neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York.
Santana’s distinctive take on a beloved classic – macaroni and cheese – is much more than just a delightful side dish. It’s an enthralling culinary journey that blends traditional American comfort food with a tantalizing touch of Dominican heritage.
Macaroni and cheese, affectionately known as “mac & cheese,” holds a special place in the hearts of many. Synonymous with comfort, this childhood favorite dish is adored for its simplicity, versatility, and the sense of nostalgia it evokes. However, Ruben Santana dared to take this classic dish and elevate it to new gastronomic heights. He introduced an eclectic mix of ingredients and flavors, seamlessly fusing his Dominican roots with his deep understanding and appreciation for American comfort food.
When it comes to Santana’s Mac & Cheese, it all starts with a creamy, savory custard. This unconventional component, featuring a rich blend of whole milk, heavy cream, and eggs, sets the stage for the exciting culinary experience that lies ahead. Unlike many traditional mac & cheese recipes that call for a cheese-based sauce, Santana’s version employs this custard as a binding agent, resulting in a mac & cheese that is creamy, rich, and oh-so-indulgent.
The magic of Santana’s recipe truly comes to life with the seasoning of the noodles – a step that many would overlook. A burst of flavors like adobo, black pepper, oregano, smoked paprika, garlic powder, dark chili powder, and achiote enrobe the macaroni, infusing each bite with an extraordinary taste profile that echoes the essence of his Dominican heritage.
This generous, hearty seasoning, combined with a creamy, buttery sour cream and a trio of cheeses (yellow cheddar, white cheddar, and smoked gouda) creates a symphony of textures and flavors that delight the palate.
Baked to perfection with a golden-brown, crispy top and served straight from the oven, each serving of Santana’s mac & cheese offers an irresistible allure that has captivated not only the patrons of his Brooklyn BBQ joint but food enthusiasts across the globe.
In the end, Ruben Santana’s mac & cheese is more than just a side dish to complement his delicious BBQ. It is a testament to Santana’s culinary prowess, his ability to innovate, and his respect for his cultural roots. It serves as a heartwarming reminder of the limitless possibilities of food as a medium to connect, inspire, and express one’s heritage. As you prepare to embark on this culinary journey, get ready to discover a mac & cheese that is as unique and special as the man behind it.
Welcome to the world of Ruben Santana’s Mac & Cheese – a place where comfort meets culture in the most delightful way.
Serving Suggestions for Ruben Santana Mac and Cheese
- Garnish: Before serving, you might want to sprinkle a little extra smoked paprika or fresh chopped parsley on top for color and an extra pop of flavor.
- Side Dish: Ruben’s mac and cheese pairs excellently with BBQ dishes due to its hearty, smoky flavor. Consider serving it alongside grilled meats, BBQ ribs, or smoked sausages. It’s also wonderful with a side of coleslaw or a green salad to add some freshness to your meal.
- Beverage Pairing: To wash down the richness of the mac and cheese, consider a crisp white wine or a light beer. Alternatively, for non-alcoholic options, iced tea or a lemonade would work wonderfully.
- Portion Size: This mac and cheese is rich and filling, so a little can go a long way! Start with a small portion and you can always go back for seconds.
- Leftovers: If you have any leftover mac and cheese, store it in an airtight container in the fridge. It reheats well in the oven or microwave and can be enjoyed for several days after baking.
Enjoy your homemade Ruben Santana Mac and Cheese, a recipe that brings together rich, creamy, and smoky flavors in perfect harmony!
- 1 pound of Macaroni noodles
- 3 Large eggs
- 2 cups of Whole milk
- 2 cups of Heavy cream
- 2 cups of Sour cream
- 1 cup of Unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon Adobo seasoning
- 1 teaspoon Black pepper
- 1 teaspoon Oregano
- 1 tablespoon Smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon Garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon Dark chili powder
- 1 teaspoon Achiote (also known as Annatto powder)
- 1/2 teaspoon Red pepper flakes (optional, for a spicy kick)
- 8 ounces of Yellow cheddar cheese, shredded
- 8 ounces White cheddar cheese, shredded
- 8 ounces of Smoked gouda cheese, shredded
- Begin by cracking the three large eggs into a medium-sized mixing bowl. Try to avoid getting any shell in the mix!
- Add in the 2 cups of whole milk and the 2 cups of heavy cream to the bowl with the eggs.
- Whisk these ingredients together until fully combined and the mixture is smooth. You're looking for a custardy consistency, so make sure there are no lumps remaining.
- Once the custard mix is ready, set it aside for the time being. We will incorporate this into the macaroni and cheese mixture a little later.
- Begin by boiling a large pot of water. Once the water reaches a rapid boil, add a generous pinch of salt and then add your macaroni noodles.
- Cook the noodles according to the package instructions until they're al dente - meaning they still have a bit of a bite to them. Remember, they'll continue to cook in the oven later.
- Once cooked, drain the macaroni and return it to the pot.
Mixing and Seasoning the Macaroni:
- With your macaroni still hot, add in the 2 cups of sour cream and 1 cup of unsalted butter. The heat from the pasta will melt the butter and help incorporate the sour cream evenly. Stir until everything is well mixed.
- Now it's time to add your seasonings. Start by sprinkling in the adobo seasoning, black pepper, oregano, smoked paprika, garlic powder, dark chili powder, and achiote. Add red pepper flakes if you desire a little heat.
- Stir well to ensure every noodle is coated in the seasoning mixture. The macaroni should look quite seasoned at this point, but don't worry, it will balance out once combined with the custard and cheese.
- Once your macaroni is well seasoned and the sour cream and butter have been fully incorporated, it's time to move on to the next steps.
Combining Custard and Macaroni:
- With your seasoned macaroni ready, it's time to introduce the custard mix you made earlier. Pour the custard over the seasoned macaroni in the pot.
- Stir everything well to make sure that every noodle is coated with the custard mix. You'll notice the seasoned macaroni start to look a little lighter as the custard washes off some of the seasoning.
Adding the Cheese:
- Now, add your shredded cheeses - the yellow cheddar, white cheddar, and smoked gouda - to the pot.
- Stir well to ensure that the cheese is evenly distributed throughout the macaroni.
Baking the Mac and Cheese:
- Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C).
- Pour the macaroni and cheese mixture into a large baking dish. Ensure that the mixture is spread out evenly in the dish.
- Bake your mac and cheese in the preheated oven for approximately 45 minutes. You're looking for the top to be beautifully golden and the cheese to be bubbling around the edges.
- Once baked, remove your mac and cheese from the oven and allow it to cool for a few minutes before serving. This will help it set a bit and make it easier to serve.
Seasonings can be adjusted according to personal taste. The red pepper flakes are optional if you prefer a little heat in your mac & cheese. Always remember to taste and adjust as you go.