OK, so I get more likes when I blog about food rather than knitting, but I swear, this isn’t going to become a food blog. I just had a recipe that wanted to share.
Many, many years ago, when I was about 21, I think, I spent a semester in Mexico. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that I’m a computer programmer, or maybe a biologist (both, actually), so how did I manage to spend a semester in Mexico? I went to a university that allowed double majors in arbitrary combinations of subjects: I chose biochemistry and spanish. You know, so I could jet off to Mexico for the first half of fourth year.
Anyway, Mexico. It was an interesting time for Mexico, and an interesting time for me. Mexico was about to throw out the political party that had been ruling the country for 80 years, and I was learning to hitchhike, and haggle, and scuba dive. And getting a ridiculously dark tan on my fair, freckled, celtic skin. And eating Mexican food, which I discovered is generally not as delicious as Tex-Mex, or Mexi-Cali, or even the Canadian approximation thereof. But the amazing woman I lived with while I was there was a good cook, and among the handful of things she made for us was a baked macaroni dish with creamy sauce containing chilis. At the time, I didn’t have much idea what the sauce was (thick like sour cream, but not as sour… crème fraîche, of course, but this was 1999, and I’m not sure how common crème fraîche was among Canadian university students back then). Nor did I even know that the pasta she used was macaroni (it was the long kind: sort of like spaghetti noodles with a hole through the middle). So when we got back to Canada, my girlfriend-at-the-time and I tried to replicate it, but I don’t think we had much success, and eventually we lost interest.
So now I have a garden full of ripe chilis, including more poblanos than I can really deal with, and so I thought I’d give it another shot! Plus, pasta is one of the few things Tommy will reliably eat. Or so I thought (more about this below, but first the recipe!)
Poblano Macaroni Bake
- 1 small onion, coarsely chopped
- 6 or 7 poblano chilis, coarsely chopped
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 2 c crème fraîche
- 1 lb dry macaroni (long or short, or whatever pasta you like for baking)
- 150 g mild firm cheese (edam, colby, mild cheddar, Monterey Jack… I’m sure even emmental or gruyere would be nice), grated
- salt to taste
- Heat the butter over medium-high heat. Sautee the onions and chilis until very soft. Cool slightly, then puree in a food processor until fairly smooth (alternatively, you could just chop things more finely, but Tommy will pick anything remotely chunky out of his pasta).
- Preaheat oven to 350°F.
- Cook the macaroni according to package directions.
- Meanwhile, combine pureed chili mixture and crème fraîche, and add salt to taste. Stir in cooked pasta.
Place pasta–sauce mixture in a casserole dish or dutch oven and top with grated cheese, then bake for 20 to 30 minutes until cheese is bubbly.
So, yeah, it was delicious, and while it’s been a long time since I ate this in Mexico, it’s what I remember it tasting like. Tommy, however, ate about 3 bites, then proclaimed “I don’t like it,” and pushed it away. Miso, on the other hand, cried between bites because I couldn’t spoon it into his mouth quickly enough, and then finished Tommy’s portion once his was gone (this is becoming a theme at dinner time). Then both boys had banana smoothies.
- She had a housekeeper who cooked lunch (the main meal in that part of Mexico) for us most days, and usually we had something light in the evening that didn’t really require much preparation.
- Quite apart from the crème fraîche issue, poblano chilis, which our host had used in the sauce, weren’t so easy to come by, so we wouldn’t have had many opportunities to try it properly. We probably tried anaheims, which don’t have the same smoky flavour at all. Or maybe we tried a combination of jalapeños and bell peppers, which might be better. Now that I think of it, Canadian grocery store jalapeños are often mild enough that we could have just used a whole bunch of those.
- It turns out both “ancho” and “mulato” chilis, both of which we have in our garden, are called “poblanos” when they haven’t been dried. Who knew?
- If crème fraîche is hard to come by or expensive, it’s pretty easy to make: for one cup of crème fraîche, add 1 Tbsp buttermilk to 1 c whipping/heavy cream, give it a stir, poor it all into a jar and leave it at room temperature (covered) for 24 hours. Make sure you use a big enough jar, though, or things can get a bit messy (a 500 mL jar is not quite big enough for 2 c of crème frîche, I discovered).