Saturday Dinner: Macaroni and Cheese Part VII

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Previous Macaroni and Cheese editions:

If there is a question that defines my relationship with The Wife, and I mean the one question that one has asked the other more than any other over the course of our time together, it would be this:

What do you want to do for dinner?

It was the question I posed to The Wife on Saturday before she left for a baby shower. “On days like today,” The Wife said, readying herself to brush 6 inches of snow from the car, “I want comfort food, like mac and cheese.”

Okay,  so macaroni and cheese it was. But, I wasn’t just going to melt some cheddar and bake it with pasta. No, I wanted something different. Why not something Mexican/Texican inspired? A previous macaroni and cheese iteration here added black beans and guacamole. This time around, I opted for some good cheese, black beans, poblano peppers and cilantro.

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WHAT WORKED: Goya Sazon. In my kitchen, I keep salt, herbes de provence and pepper right next to the stove. If I was Mexican, I imagine I would keep a jar of Sazon on the counter.

WHAT DIDN’T: Monterrey Jack cheese. I cut the cheese in thick cubes to melt and while the cheddar went fine, the jack took forever. I should have shredded it. On another note, I need to get myself a new cheese shreedder.

WHAT DID THE WIFE SAY: She approved, in spite of the poblanos.

WILL IT MAKE ANOTHER APPEARANCE: I think it will.

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Macaroni and Cheese with Black Beans and Poblano Peppers
By Jared Paventi

  • 2 poblano peppers, rinsed
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1 1/4 cup half and half
  • 8 oz. each sharp cheddar and Monterrey jack cheeses, diced or shredded
  • 4 to 6 oz. cotija cheese, diced
  • 4 oz. goat cheese
  • 14 to 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 packet Goya Sazon with culantro and annatto
  • 2 tbsp. cilantro leaves, pulled and chopped
  • 1/2 cup unseasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 lb. medium or small shell pasta

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Butter a 11x7x2 baking dish or pan. Set the remaining butter to the side.

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Over a gas flame or under a broiler, char the poblano peppers until they are black on all sides and well blistered. Remove from heat and cool. When they are cool enough to handle, run under cold water and peel the skin off the peppers. Cut off the stems, rinse out the seeds and cut into small dice.

Set a large pan of water over high heat and bring to boil for the pasta. Salt the water and cook the pasta for one minute less than the instructions on the box. Drain, rinse with cold water and set aside.

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Add the leftover butter to large saucepan over medium-low heat and melt.  Add the half-and-half and bring it to the point where steam comes off the top. Add the four cheeses and stir with a flat whisk or spatula. Cook until melted, stirring frequently. Mix in half of the Sazon packet before removing from the heat.

In the meantime, combine breadcrumbs, the remaining half of the Sazon packet and half of the cilantro in a small bowl and mix with a fork. Set aside.

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In a large mixing bowl, add the pasta, black beans, diced pepper, and remaining cilantro leaves, then cover with the cheese sauce. Toss with a large serving spoon until well combined then pour into the baking dish. Top with the breadcrumb mixture and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the top begins to brown.

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