Fiery South of the Border Mac & Cheese Featured in New Cookbookby Larry Cox on Dec. 06, 2012, under Uncategorized
Mac&Cheese, Please! By Laura Werlin (Andrews McMeel, $16.99)
Laura Welin, based in San Francisco, is the James Beard Award-winning author of five books on cheese including “Grilled Cheese, Please” and “The New American Cheese.” Her latest cookbook spotlights one of America’s quintessential comfort foods, Mac & Cheese. This collection serves up 50 nifty recipes from the classics that everyone is familiar with to others that are fresh and new.
The recipes are divided into eight basic sections: Classic (and Almost Classic); Mostly Cheese; Eat Your Veggies; Eat Your Protein; Breakfast for Dinner; Totally Decadent; Lighten Up, Cool Down; and Party Time. Most of the recipes are fairly straight forward and accessible. Some of the better recipes feature unexpected ingredients. For example, “Spanish Mac & Cheese” is prepared with paprika , cayenne pepper and almonds, “Asparagus, Swiss, Dill Mac & Cheese” has dill, carrots and asparagus, and “Smokey Blue with Leeks and Hazelnuts Mac & Cheese” showcases Smokey Blue Cheese from the Rogue Creamery in Oregon.
This is a fun cookbook. I tested two recipes. The “Cheddar, Ham, Apple, and Spiced Pecan Mac & Cheese” combined the classic flavors of cheddar and apples but with the added Southern touch of spiced pecans. This oven cooked recipe took a little time but was well worth the effort. The “Fiery South of the Border Mac & Cheese” was spicy and not for the faint of heart.
FIERY SOUTH OF THE BORDER MAC & CHEESE
8 oz tomatillos, husks removed and quartered
1 medium white or yellow onion, peeled and cut lengthwise into 6 pieces
1 serrano chile, halved lengthwise and seeded
2 Tbs canola or vegetable oil
½ tsp kosher salt, plus more if needed
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
¼ c coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
2 Tbs water
Mac & Cheese
1 Tbs plus 1 tsp kosher salt, more if needed
8 oz small elbow macaroni
2 Tbs canola or vegetable oil
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 cups reduced fat milk (I used 2%)
½ cup skim milk
12 oz low-fat pepper Jack cheese, coarsely grated (3 ½ cups)
¾ cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
2 whole pickled jalapeno chiles, finely chopped
½ cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves, plus sprigs for garnish
½ cup low-fat sour cream
For the salsa, preheat oven to 375F. Put the tomatillos, onion, and chile on a large rim baking sheet. Drizzle with the oil. Sprinkle with the salt and a little black pepper. Roast the vegetables, stirring occasionally, until the tomatillos have collapsed, about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly. Put in a food processor or blender with the cilantro and water and process until smooth. Taste and add more salt, if needed. Set aside. This can be made up to 2 days ahead, covered and refrigerated.
For the Mac & Cheese, fill a 4- to 5-quart pot with water and add 1 tablespoon of salt. Bring to a boil and add the pasta. Cook until tender but firm, 4 to 6 minutes and drain.
Using the same pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Slowly whisk in the flour and stir constantly until a paste forms, 30 to 45 seconds. Continue whisking for 1 to 2 minutes more, until the mixture starts to darken slightly and smell a little nutty. Turn heat to medium-low. Slowly whisk in the milks and the remaining 1 tsp salt and cook until the mixture starts to thicken and is just beginning to bubble around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes. It should be thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Add the cheese and stir until melted and the sauce is smooth but not runny. It should be similar to cake batter. If it’s soupy, continue cooking, stirring constantly, until it thickens.
Add the pasta, corn, jalapenos, and cilantro and stir to combine. Ladle into bowls. Top with a couple of spoonfuls of salsa and dollop with a small spoonful of sour cream. Garnish with the whole cilantro sprigs and serve immediately.