A spicy version of your favourite comfort meal, mac and cheese.
1 lb elbow macaroni
1 poblano pepper
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 1/2 cups whole milk
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (about 220g)
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (about 220g)
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese (about 220g)
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and black pepper
High heat neutral oil for cooking
Place one oven rack in the upper position (for broiling poblano) and one frame in the middle shelf (for baking mac and cheese). Turn the oven broiler on. Lightly oil poblano pepper and place in a baking dish (TIP: You can use the same nine-inch x 13-inch dish you plan to use for baking the mac and cheese later). Place pepper under the broiler for 10 minutes or whenever skins are charred and blistered, turning several times. Remove from oven and cover with a plate or tin foil and let steam for five to 10 minutes, then pull the skins off. Remove stem, veins and seeds. Cut into thin strips, then crosswise into small pieces. Go over everything with your knife until the texture is similar to a chunky salsa, i.e. just short of being a paste. Set aside.
Turn oven to 375f. Remove the upper rack now if needed to make space. Bring three to four quarts of water to a boil in a large pot for cooking pasta. Shred cheeses and mix well in a large bowl. Set aside.
Once water is at a boil, add two tablespoons of kosher salt or the amount needed for water to “taste like the sea.” Cook pasta according to package directions for al dentre for less than one minute. Drain and toss with a slight drizzle of oil to prevent sticking. Set aside.
Clean the pot and return to the stove on medium heat. Melt butter and quickly follow with flour, whisking for two to three minutes until the roux is lightly golden (but not brown). Slowly whisk in milk, along with a teaspoon of salt, and continue cooking for another two minutes on a simmer (not boiling) until thickened and smooth.
Off heat, add shredded cheese, chopped poblano peppers, smoked paprika, Dijon mustard and black pepper to taste. Once the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth, add cooked macaroni and stir to coat well. Do a final taste and season with salt and black pepper as needed. Transfer to a nine-inch x 13-inch baking dish. Bake on the middle rack for 20 to 25 minutes or when the mac and cheese is bubbling and the top is golden. Enjoy!