Mac and Cheese For the Gods
Okay, might be overstating the case a bit, but my pursuit of the most interesting yet lowest-carb mac'n'cheese took a turn for the better when I found bags of frozen Poblano chile strips in my neighborhood Food4Less store freezer case. Of course you can get Poblanos (labelled by our clueless gummint produce-minders as Pasillas) fresh in many markets, but these are ready-cut and can be cooked from frozen. So look for them. They have a very fine chile flavor, but not much heat at all, and Mrs. O, who hates sweet peppers, finds these very tasty.
So here's my recipe:
8 oz. elbows or other tubes (I use Trader Joe High-Fiber Penne)
1 cup poblano pepper strips
1 small onion, chopped fine
3 Roma tomatoes, cleaned of pulp/seeds and chopped coarsely
1-2 Tbs. olive oil
12 oz. can evaporated milk
2 cups grated sharp cheddar
1 cup shredded Fontina or other nice melty cheese
Panko crumbs, grated Parmesan, S&P
Bring pot of water to the boil, add salt to equal seawater. Add pasta. Cook until just tender enough to bite through, less than al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water, drain dry.
Heat oil in 5-qt nonstick pot, or whatever you've got that will work.. Sauté onion and pepper over medium heat until onion is transparent. Add evap. milk; cook, scrape and stir until it reduces by about 1/3rd. Off the heat, add cheese and stir until it melts, then stir in tomato. Adjust seasoning to taste, then combine with pasta and pour into greased 2-qt. casserole. Top w/mixture of crumbs and grated Parmesan. Bake in preheated 350º oven until brown and bubbly, about 30 min.
I served this last night to a mixed bag of friends, with some strir-fried asparagus as the sole side dish, and they were almost licking their plates. I guess it's a keeper.
The high-fiber penne has several times the fiber content of even whole-wheat pasta and a higher protein content as well (the ratio is important, if you believe that South Beach guy). And of course the panko is optional - I add crumbs if it's for company. The important thing here is the high vegetable content and using further-reduced evaporated milk instead of making a flour-and-butter bechamel … although I guess the REALLY important thing is how good it tastes!
I should add, though, that this penne kind of falls apart overnight, and isn't nearly as tasty leftover as regular macaroni. I've noticed similar degradation occurring with Dreamfields products; it might be that the relatively low starch content is to blame.
I believe the official SKU# listing says Pasilla, regardless of which market you're in. My neighborhood Baja Ranch market, whose flyers come in Spanish with English subtitles, still labels their poblanos as pasillas. The important thing is that nearly all their customers know what they're buying and consult the shelf tag only for the price.
As I mentioned on the "Poblano or Pasilla?" thread, although the store where I found the frozen ones tag their fresh ones as pasillas, the bag itself says Poblanos.