Comfort food: is there anything better? Although I don’t indulge in creamy dishes like macaroni and cheese very often, when I do I want it to be spectacular.
As you know, I’m on a huge recipe-fest with the poblano peppers in our garden. I really wasn’t kidding when I said it was getting out of control. I’m picking 4-6 new peppers every single day it seems, and the branches are growing increasingly heavy with ripening fruit. I thought some of them would be perfect in a macaroni and cheese dish. Ok, it is also that I wanted an excuse to create a dish in my new Le Creuset casserole dish, along with some specialty pasta. It’s my very first piece of Le Creuset, and I’m obsessed with the beautiful blue color of the stoneware dish. I don’t know how it has taken me so long to add a piece to my collection, especially when I can find them at Marshalls. Yes, that’s what I said: Marshalls! Their home goods section is the perfect place to shop for kitchen accessories (and even specialty food items, like condiments, seasonings, and pasta). This dish would normally cost $35-45 full price. At Marshalls? $14. Brilliant.
To me, this mac and cheese is a perfect combo. The cheese is creamy and rich, the poblanos add heat, and the bacon crumbles add texture and salt. I found myself going back for seconds: I won’t lie.
My recipe in particular created macaroni and cheese with quite a kick; the two of our group who aren’t heat tolerant found it a bit on the spicy side. So, if you want to scale it back a bit, consider adding less poblano to the mix. But if you’re like me, bring on the heat!
Do you have a favorite mix-in to your macaroni and cheese?
Poblano Macaroni and Cheese with Bacon
6 strips bacon
6 small poblano peppers, diced (about 2/3 cup)
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups low fat or skim milk
1 1/2 cups fontina cheese (separated)
1/2 cup Mexican cheese blend (I used 4 cheese Mexican)
Pinch of salt and pepper, to taste
10 oz uncooked pasta (I used mini bowties)
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Heat a large stock pot filled with water over high heat until water is boiling. Add pasta and cook until almost tender (about 5-7 minutes). Drain pasta and set aside.
2. Heat a large (and deep) skillet over medium heat. Fry the bacon strips until crispy, then set the strips on a piece of paper towel to drain. Chop the cooked bacon into crumbles. Remove all but about one tablespoon of bacon grease from the pan.
3. With the pan still on medium heat, add the poblanos, onion, and garlic and saute for about 5 minutes until tender. Add the flour and cook for about one minute, stirring constantly to incorporate.
4. Stir the milk into the pan, increase the heat to medium high, and bring the mixture to a boil. Stir with a whisk and cook for about three minutes, until the mixture becomes thick. Then, add the cheese (however, reserve 1/4 cup of fontina to add at the end) and a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir gently until the cheese melts.
5. Gently add the pasta into the cheese mixture and fold until coated. At this time, also stir in the crumbled bacon pieces.
6. Spread the macaroni and cheese evenly into a casserole/baking dish coated lightly with cooking spray. Sprinkle the remaining fontina cheese and the breadcrumbs over the top of the macaroni and cheese. Then, lightly spray the top of the breadcrumbs with the cooking spray (it will help them to turn golden brown in the oven).
7. Bake at 375°F for about 25 minutes, until heated through and the top of the macaroni and cheese is golden brown. Serve immediately, and enjoy!