My husband is good at making breakfast — coffee, fruit, toast. And he can put together a salad if I have plenty of veggies in my garden or the fridge. But recently he decided he should learn how to actually cook something, and we decided on macaroni and cheese. From scratch, not out of a box. I looked in all my old standard cookbooks: The Joy of Cooking (both the 1964 and 1997 versions); How to Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman, and The New Basics by Rosso and Lukins. Ultimately, I decided the best recipe was in my own New Southwest Cookbook. I didn’t devise the recipe; it came from Chef Robert McGrath at the Roaring Forks Restaurant in Scottsdale.
To me the special flavor comes from the poblano chiles. I think they have a better flavor than the typical Anaheims. Frequently, but not always, they are less hot while still giving a great chile flavor. You must roast and puree them first. If you have a grill, roast them there. Otherwise, the broiler on your oven will do. The trick is to the get the skin nicely charred but not to burn the thick juicy chile walls.
Once the seeds are removed, puree the poblanos in a blender or food processor and set them aside.
Put some water to boil for the macaroni. Any shape will do, but I used the classic elbow-shaped. While the water is boiling and then the macaroni is cooking, you will have time to grate the cheese, and chop and saute the red pepper, onion, garlic and corn. Use can use fresh corn cut from the cob or just canned works also.
When the macaroni is tender, return it to the pot and stir in all the ingredients. Last will be the cream. The recipe calls for heavy cream, but I used half-and-half. When I was collecting recipes for The New Southwest Cookbook, I discovered that lots of butter and cream are the professional chefs’ secret ingredients. THAT is why everything they make tastes so good.
Here’s the recipe. It is supposed to be four servings, and it is. But everybody usually wants seconds so doubling the recipe makes sense.
Green Chile Macaroni (Makes 4 servings)
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup sweet corn kernels
1/4 cup diced red onion
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
1 teaspoon corn oil
2 cups cooked macaroni
1/2 to 3/4 cup puree of roasted, peeled poblano chile
2/3 cup grated cheese (hot pepper jack, cheddar or mixture)
1/4 cup heavy cream
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste
Sauté the red bell pepper, corn, red onion, and garlic in the oil in a heavy pan. Add the macaroni, poblano puree, and cheese and stir until cheese is melted. Fold in the heavy cream. Season with salt and pepper to taste.