Saturday, September 10, 2011

Poblano Macaroni and Cheese ala The Homesick Texan

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I am back, Deep in the Heart of Texas!!!

Remember last week when I made Pork Tacos, Dallas Gas Station Style from the Homesick Texan Cookbook?

All part of a cookbook spotlight and cook-off hosted by Heather (of the GIRLICHEF Blog).  19 of the best and brightest (well, 18 and me) bloggers have agreed to really put fellow blogger, Lisa of the Homesick Texan Blog (and author of the The Homesick Texan Cookbook) to the test.  Rules are pretty simple, we all cook the same dish two weeks in a row, we all blog the results, next week, we all pick our own dishes and really test the book.  And finally the last week of the month, we do a book report.

So, we are in week number two of the spotlight.  It's time to test out a side dish.  And what is more Texan than a big skillet full of Macaroni and Cheese?  Well, almost anything would be.  You see, the origins for Mac and Cheese are not Italian or Mediterranean at all, but are British.  For the most part, pre-1820's Texas was explored, settled and populated by Hispanic Europeans and native born Mexicans.  Texas (actually a part of Mexico at the time) loosened their immigration laws allowing land ownership by non-Mexicans for the first time. was almost 100% populated by Mexicans. But in the 1830's, led by Steven Austin and his gang of "Old Three Hundred", huge parcels of land were sold to citizens of the United States (with British and French origins).  These immigrants (some legal, most illegal) brought with them, fraudulent land speculations and the slave trade.

Which brings us to Jim Bowie, Slave Trader, land Speculator, Indian Fighter, nasty horrible man and one of the most admired figures in Texas history.  He is also the designer of the famous Bowie Knife.  But unlike all of the information above, the knife has very little to do with Poblano Macaroni And Cheese.

But Jim Bowie the man does.  Not as a cook, but as an example of the melding of cultures.  Bowie's roots can be traced to Maryland, which traces it's roots to English immigration.  In order to secure his ability to thrive as a land speculator, he bought his way into a marriage with the daughter of the vice-Governor of the provence (a shade over $300,000 dollars buys a bride half your age, Mexican citizenship and a government title).

But (and I am now getting to the food), a funny thing happens when you sat down roots in a new culture.  Jim Bowie fell in love with his wife.  he learned the language and the history of the area.  He was accepted as a respected mover and shaker and leader of men.  And with that love and respect came a desire to adapt recipes to meld the cultures (keep everybody happy at home).

The six flags that have flown over
Tex-Mex food is different from the traditional foods served in Mexico, and even New Mexico and Arizona.  Texas has a unique culture and cuisine because of Jim Bowie and the like who moved to a land, adapted the best and brought with them their best.

The heavy creamy cheesy dish, Macaroni and Cheese is from England. Sure, roots in Italian pasta and French sauces, but the heavy cheese dish we know (and that disgusting blue box) was born in English kitchens.

The Poblano chili (along with the spices Lisa brings to her recipe) are all part of the native Mexican and Hispanic Europeans who settled in Texas prior to their immigration crisis of 1830.

Melding Jim Bowie's English/Maryland roots and his financial arm candy wife (whom he went to his historic death loving dearly), Lisa has created a perfect example of Tex-Mex cuisine.

The dish comes together in about an hour.  By roasting the peppers first, the full flavor is brought out.  Adding Cayenne pepper spice along with smoothing it out with some mustard powder, cumin and lime melds the Mexican side.  No English kitchen would serve this and Mexican homes could not imagine these combinations.

Only in Texas could a slave trading, land grabbing, back woods fighter become an honored founder of a country, state and...Cuisine!

And that's what makes this dish a perfect example of Tex-Mex Cuisine...

Poblano Macaroni and Cheese 
adapted from The Homesick Texan Cookbook
serves 8... note, I doubled this recipe.  I love leftovers, but also I wanted to use up the pasta, not have leftover cheese to spoil and it makes such a great presentation in a big cast iron skillet

4 poblano chiles
16 oz. elbow pasta Note: I used Fusilli Pasta (the corkscrew type).  I liked that pasta as it soaks up teh cheese sauce so well, every gap has the cheese oozing into the nooks.
4 Tbs. unsalted butter
10 garlic cloves, minced
4 Tbs. all-purpose flour
3 c. whole milk
2 tsp. mustard powder
1/2 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. ground cumin
lime zest
1 c. chopped cilantro
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
24 oz. grated white cheddar cheese (I used half white, half yellow)

for serving:
Cotija cheese

Roast the poblanos under the broiler until blackened, ~5 minutes per side. Remove and cover them to let them steam, for ~20 minutes. I like to roast them right on top of a large sheet of foil, then just bring the foil up and around the chiles. Peel/rub off the skins and remove the stems and seeds, then dice into ~1" chunks.

Bring a large salted pot of water to a boil and cook pasta until just al dente. Preheat your oven to 375° F. Grease a large baking dish or cast-iron skillet (personally, I'd choose an 8"-10") and set aside.

In a pot set over low heat, melt the butter. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in the flour and cook until light brown and toasty smelling, ~1 minute more. Whisk in the milk and stir until thickened, 1-2 minutes. Remove pot from heat and stir in mustard powder, cayenne, cumin, lime zest, cilantro, and prepared poblanos. Taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper, as needed.

Stir half of the cheese into the sauce until melted. Throw in the pasta and stir until coated. Pour into prepared dish. Top with remaining cheddar cheese and bake, uncovered, until cheese is bubbly and slightly golden. Sprinkle with Cotija

I just LOVED this dish... so rich, thick and cheesy.  But just enough spices to make it very interesting.  I paired this with a grilled steak and grilled corn on the cob!  In fact I actually finished the dish in the grill, simple matter of moving the skillet onto the side of the grill, indirect heat, everything comes out hot from the grill and ready to serve!

Now that's a meal!

If i have tweaked your interest in anything Texan, and all things Texas Cuisine, The Homesick Texan Cookbook will be available for sale on September 13th.  And Lisa's blog is up and ongoing at HOMESICK TEXAN.

This post is part of The Homesick Texan Cookbook Spotlight and Cook-Off 
sponsored by Hyperion and hosted  at girlichef

The Homesick Texan Cookbook Spotlight and Cook-Off Banner


  1. Did not know macaroni cheese is Texan.But suppose they do love that dish because it looks awesome:)

  2. This dish sounds great and I have a plant hanging full of poblanos in search of dishes like this.

  3. That is SO colourful! I DO like TexMex cuisine and this looks fab!

  4. When I lived in TX we had this dish and it is sooo good! Kinda makes me homesick for TX....

  5. So yumm! Would love it anytime, thank you for linking with Any One Can Cook :)

  6. Hi ..First time on your blog...This recipe looks delicious....Happy to join you dear...Would love if you join me too at