I love all of the fabulous grilled and smoked meats my husband makes. They are always the centerpiece of our year-round meals. However, the quality of the side dishes that go along with those offerings make them even more special. This particular one I originally found via HeyGrillHey.com and then I altered it to suit our family’s tastes and dietary needs. It was a big hit and is certain to become a frequently requested family favorite!
i/2 pound bacon, diced
1 uncooked bratwurst link, casing removed
2 jalapenos, seeds removed and finely diced
1 8 ounce block cream cheese
12 ounces uncooked elbow macaroni (I use gluten free and it turns out great!)
1 cup water
2 1/2 cups half-and-half (you can add a little more depending on how moist or saucy you like your mac & cheese)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 cups shredded cheese of your choice (I use a mixture of sharp cheddar, mild cheddar, and cheddar jack)
1/4 cup Ritz crackers, crushed (I use gluten free panko crumbs when making this a gluten friendly batch)
1 jalapeno, thinly sliced
1-2 teaspoons BBQ rub of your choice
Preheat your smoker to 225 degrees and use a mild wood or pellet like hickory. Preheat a 12 inch cast iron skillet or cast iron dutch oven over medium high heat. Add diced bacon and bratwurst and brown. Add the diced jalapenos and cook until softened, about 2-3 minutes. Add the cream cheese until melted and incorporated. Add the uncooked noodles, water and half-and-half. Cook, stirring frequently, until the noodles have absorbed the majority of the liquid. Turn off heat and stir in the garlic powder, salt, pepper and cheese. Sprinkle the top with the BBQ rub and crackers or panko crumbs. Add the slices of jalapeno to the top.
Place the mac and cheese in the smoker for 30 minutes. Either increase your temp in the smoker to 400 or transfer to a 400 degree over for a few minutes to brown the cracker crumb topping.