When the kids have birthdays I usually let them choose the menu. For Claire’s birthday, she asked for Mac & Cheese. But not from any blue box. You all know the blue box I’m talking about. It’s the guilty pleasure box. It’s one of those things we shouldn’t like, because it’s kind of gross, but for some inexplicable reason, we get the occasional craving for it.
This is easily THE BEST macaroni and cheese I’ve ever had. It’s gooey. It’s cheesy. The roasted peppers are wonderful and the hint of southwestern spices add just enough flavor to keep it from being boring, without overwhelming the basic cheesy factor that should be the star in mac & cheese. If you don’t like peppers, you could leave them out, but I personally think you’re crazy if you do because they really add a lot of character and flavor.
What is a Poblano pepper, you might ask? They look sort of like green bell peppers, but they are darker in color and a bit longer in shape. They are usually the peppers used for Chile Rellenos. Wonderful for stuffing, roasting, or just chopping and eating. They also make great fajitas. Poblanos are not terribly spicy, though you do occasionally get one with a little kick. Normally they are quite mild, but very flavorful, more so than the similar looking Anaheim pepper. When Poblanos are red and dried, they are called Anchos.
This recipe doubles easily and can be made ahead up to the point where you pop it in the oven. We served it with Harvest Salad and crusty bread.
Poblano Mac & Cheese
(adapted from the Homesick Texan Cookbook)
2 Poblano chiles
8 oz. macaroni, or other small noodle (I used rotini)
4 cloves garlic
2 tbsp. flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp. mustard powder
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. lime zest
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
Salt & pepper to taste
3 cups grated cheddar jack cheese (or all cheddar)
Roast chiles under broiler until they turn black on both sides. Put in a bag and let cool. Remove skin and seeds and chop. Cook pasta. Preheat the oven to 375˚. Grease baking dish or spray with cooking spray. Pour drained pasta into the dish. In a sauce pan on medium low heat melt butter. Add garlic and cook about 30 seconds. Whisk in flour and cook 1 minute. Whisk in milk and stir until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and stir in mustard, cayenne, cumin, lime zest, cilantro and chiles. Add salt & pepper. Stir in 2 cups of cheese until melted and smooth. Add a little more milk if it seems too thick. Pour over pasta and toss to combine. Top with remaining cup of cheese and sprinkle with some cilantro if desired. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes.