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Poblano Macaroni and Cheese
Recipe adapted from The Homesick Texan Cookbook (Hyperion)
Yield: 8 servings
2 poblano chiles
8 ounces elbow pasta (2 cups)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1½ cups whole milk
1 teaspoon mustard powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon lime zest
½ cup chopped cilantro
Salt and black pepper, to taste
4 cups grated white cheddar cheese (12 ounces)
½ cup cotija cheese, for serving
1. Heat the broiler. Roast the poblano chiles in the broiler until they are blackened, about 5 minutes per side. Place the chiles in a paper bag or plastic food-storage bag, close it tightly and let the chiles steam for 20 minutes. Take the chiles out of the bag and rub off the charred skin. Remove the stems and seeds and chop the chiles into 1-inch-long pieces. Adjust the oven temperature to 375°.
2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook according to the package instructions, then drain the pasta. Grease a large baking dish or a large cast-iron skillet and pour the drained pasta into the pan.
3. In a pot (you can use the pot the pasta cooked in or you can do this while the pasta boils) set over low heat, melt the butter. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in the flour and cook until a light brown, toasty paste forms, about 1 minute. Whisk in the milk and stir until it's slightly thickened but still fluid, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the mustard powder, cayenne, cumin, lime zest, cilantro and chopped poblano chiles. Adjust the seasonings to taste and add salt and black pepper.
5. Slowly add 2 cups of the grated cheddar cheese and stir until it's melted and well combined into the sauce. (If the sauce has cooled too much and the cheese won't melt, return the pot to low heat on the stove. If, however, the sauce gets too thick, like a custard, you can thin it by stirring in milk, a teaspoon at a time.) Pour the sauce over the pasta and top with the remaining 2 cups of the grated cheddar cheese and bake uncovered for 20 minutes or until brown and bubbling. Sprinkle with the cotija cheese and serve immediately.