3 poblano chiles
8 oz whole wheat elbow pasta
2 Tbsp butter
4 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 tsp mustard powder
1/2 tsp cayenne powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
zest of one lime
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups grated sharp cheddar
2 cups grated smoked pepper jack (or a smoked cheddar/pepper jack blend)
1 cup panko or breadcrumbs
cilantro for garnish (optional)
Set a pot of salted water to boiling and cook your pasta until it's al dente. Drain and set aside.
Set the oven to 425.
Lightly oil a baking sheet. Core the poblanos and place them on the sheet.
Roast for 15-20 minutes, or until peppers start to blister and soften. Flip them halfway through the process.
Remove peppers from oven. Most recipes advise you to peel the skin, but why? It's healthy, it does no harm, and you won't even know it's there. Allow your peppers to cool with dignity!
Lower the oven to 375.
As peppers are roasting, melt butter in a saucepan over low heat. Use a garlic press to drizzle in the garlic. All of a sudden, your kitchen smells like hot garlic bread. Give the butter and garlic a minute to develop amity, then whisk in the flour. A golden-brown roux will form, at which point you whisk in the milk. Allow another two minutes for the flavors to meld and the sauce to thicken, whisking now and then.
Chop the cooled poblanos.
Remove pan from heat. Add mustard, cayenne, cumin, lime zest, salt, and ample ground pepper. Scoop in the poblanos. Stir.
Add 1 cup sharp cheddar and 1 cup pepper jack to the sauce, stirring so that the cheese melts. If cheese refuses to melt, heat the pan on low heat until it submits.
In a bowl, combine pasta and sauce. Pour into a baking pan or skillet.
Cover with the remainder of the cheese. Shake the panko evenly on top.
Bake for 25 minutes, then broil for 5. Remove from oven when sauce is bubbling and top is golden-brown.
Sprinkle with chopped cilantro.
Let cool 5 minutes, then serve.
- When I made this, I scraped two ears of fresh corn into the sauce in a misguided bid to up the veggie content. Don't do this! The corn added a sweet note that has no place in this dish.
- The original recipe calls for 1/2 cup of cilantro in the sauce. I forgot to add this, and so it became the garnish. I tried leftovers with cilantro mixed in, and actually prefer the mac without it. The peppers stand out more, and the flavor seems deeper and less Tex-Mex.
- I used a block of white cheddar for the sauce, and block of sharp orange Tillamook for the topping, giving the crust that lusted-after cheddary appearance.
- Spice level: if you were eating the poblanos raw, they would be moderately spicy. The roasting gives this dish a gentle heat, but not the kick in the pants you might imagine. If you want a hotter mac, slice a fresh jalapeno into the sauce and up the cayenne content. I love smoked paprika (pimentón), but was afraid to add any for fear that it would throw the flavors out of whack. If you want to try some, I suggest sprinkling it on top after pulling the pan from the oven.
- Don't forget the lime zest! This ingredient is what gives this mac its je ne sais quoi and was the reason I tried this recipe.
Who doesn't love mac and cheese? Who doesn't love a smoky, mysterious potluck dish? 5 stars!