Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Macaroni and Cheese w/ Roasted Jalapeño-Tomato Salsa

Although my favorite mac 'n cheese and I are still going steady, if anything were to ever come between us, it would be this version.  It's smooth and creamy and laced with the deep earthiness of roasted chiles, tomatoes, onions, and garlic.  Though it's infused with a pleasant heat, it is still classically cheesy.  We definitely hit if off.

I gave it a little gift after we spent time together in the kitchen.  Tortilla strips.  Okay, tortilla squares to be exact.  Crisp.  Salty.  The perfect adornment.  Don't let the photograph fool you.  I stacked on another handful and stirred it up before tucking in.  Sure, you could forgo the tortillas for buttered bread crumbs.  If you're into that kind of thing.  You could even shun all "jewelry" and go bare.  I wouldn't blame you.  It looks good in nothing. And tastes good, too.
Macaroni and Cheese w/ Roasted Jalapeño-Tomato Salsa

by Heather Schmitt-González
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20-30 minutes
Keywords: entree side vegetarian cheese chiles pasta tomatoes American

Ingredients (serves 8)
    Roasted Jalapeño-Tomato Salsa:
    • 1½ lbs. ripe plum tomatoes (~10 medium)
    • 1-1½ oz. jalapeños, stemmed (2-3)
    • 2 oz. white onion, sliced ¼" thick (~½ small)
    • 4 fat garlic cloves, peeled
    • ~¼ c. water
    • ⅓ c. fresh chopped cilantro, loosely packed
    • 1 tsp. salt
    • 1½ tsp. cider vinegar
    for the mac and cheese:
    • 2 c. milk
    • 2 oz. butter
    • ¼ c. all-purpose flour
    • 2 c. Roasted Jalapeño-Tomato Salsa
    • 12 oz. shredded Sharp Cheddar cheese
    • ~1½ tsp. salt
    • 1 lb. cavatappi (or other short spiral or twisty pasta)
    to garnish:
    • chopped cilantro, optional
    • fried tortilla pieces, optional
    Instructions
    making the Roasted Jalapeño-Tomato Salsa (yield ~2½ c.):
    Heat the broiler. Lay the tomatoes, jalapeños, onions, and garlic cloves on a broiler pan, baking sheet, or foil. Set pan below broiler and broil until darkly roasted and blacked in spots, turning as needed. The garlic will get done before everything else, just pull it out and continue on with the rest. This could take a total of ~12-15 minutes.

    Transfer jalapeños, onion, and garlic to the jar of a blender or food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer to a bowl. Add the tomatoes (peel first, if you wish) to the jar without rinsing it out first, along with any accumulated juices and coarsely puree them. Add them to the bowl. Stir in enough of the water to give the salsa an easily spoonable consistency. Stir in the cilantro. Season with salt and vinegar.

    Will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 5 days if necessary.
    making the Macaroni and Cheese:
    Fill a large pot with about 4 quarts of heavily salted water and bring to a boil.

    Melt butter over medium heat in a medium-sized saucepan. Stir in the flour and whisk until mixture turns a deep golden hue, ~2 minutes. Add milk all at once and whisk constantly until mixture thickens and comes to a boil, 4-5 minutes. Stir in the salsa, then remove from heat and add cheese, stirring until it melts. Taste and season with salt.

    When the water has come to a boil, add pasta and cook until al dente (according to package directions). Drain and return to pot. Stir in the cheese sauce and then spoon into a serving dish or dishes.
    Sprinkle each dish with a bit of cilantro, if you like. You can also top it with some fried tortilla strips, for added crunch.

    note:
    You could transfer the macaroni and cheese to a buttered baking dish, top it with buttered bread crumbs, and bake 375° F until golden.

    adapted from Salsas That Cook by Rick Bayless
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    I am sharing this post with:
    IHCC theme: Salsas and Sauces
    Presto Pasta Nights hosted by creator Ruth at Once Upon a Feast this week.
    Rick Bayless @IHCC button rounded prestopastanights Tasty Tuesdays 33 shades of green TastyTuesdayBB hearthnsoul150 a little birdie told me rook no. 17