|Tex Mex Mac and Cheese
Texas restaurateur Robert Del Grande makes this mac and cheese with elbows, tortillas, Monterey Jack cheese, cheddar, and poblano chili pepper. Poblanos vary in heat level; smaller, darker ones are sometimes spicier. If your nose stings when you handle the chilies, or if the raw chili tastes wildly spicy when you bite into it, use fewer. This dish comes out flecked with green.
Butter (for the dish)
1 pound poblano chilies (4 to 6 chilies)
Olive oil (for sprinkling)
6 white corn tortillas
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
2 cups half-and-half
Salt and pepper, to taste
8 ounces elbow macaroni
8 ounces Monterey jack cheese, grated
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
Turn on the broiler. Butter a shallow 3-quart baking dish. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Rub the poblanos lightly with olive oil and arrange them on a rimmed baking sheet. Broil the peppers as close to the element as possible, turning often, until the skins are blackened all over. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let them cool to room temperature.
Turn the oven to 350 degrees.
Remove and discard the charred poblano skins with the stems and seeds. Chop the chilies coarsely and transfer them to a food processor.
In a hot, dry skillet over medium-high heat, lightly toast the tortillas for 30 to 60 seconds per side or until they're just softened and give off a toasted-corn aroma (don't let them become crisp). Coarsely chop the tortillas and add them to the chilies in the food processor. Add the cilantro leaves and pulse until finely chopped but not pureed.
In a large bowl, whisk together the half-and-half, eggs, salt, and pepper until well combined. Stir in the chopped chili mixture.
Drop the macaroni into the boiling water. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 6 minutes or until the pasta is not quite cooked through. Tip it into a colander, shaking it to eliminate excess moisture. Add the pasta to the egg mixture with two-thirds of the grated cheeses. Stir to combine.
Pour the mixture into the buttered dish. Scatter the remaining cheeses evenly over the top. Bake the dish for 40 minutes or until browned and bubbling at the edges. If you want to brown the center more, turn on the broiler again and let the dish brown, watching it carefully. Let it sit for 10 minutes before serving. Adapted from "Best American Recipes 2004-2005" - Globe Newspaper Company.