Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Hatch Chile Extravaganza: Hatch Mac & Cheese

August is hatch chile season. After being constantly bombarded by billboards and ads extolling the virtues of the hatch chile, Kevin, Nancy and I decided to see what the fuss was all about with a fancy hatch chile packed dinner. Our main course consisted of a hatch chile marinated pork chop served on top of a special hatch puree, but the real fun was in our side dish,  the staple of any healthy adult diet- MAC & CHEESE! Could the hatch chiles (along with Ron Swanson-esque levels of bacon) liven up our mac & cheese to new levels of awesome?
Well, hatch chiles, you don't look particularly different from normal chiles, but how do you taste?
First, let's talk about the hatch chile. It's a fairly mild chile (although roasting them will pump up the spiciness) that tastes like a mix between an anaheim green chile and a poblano. If you want to liven up the flavor of a meal without knocking yourself out with heat, hatch chiles are the way to go.

Hatch Mac & Cheese
Adapted from Jamie Oliver
Servings: About a week's worth of liberal eating
Time: 60 minutes

Kevin's crust comes together.
All of the bacon you have
4 tbsp butter
3 heaped tbsp flour
1/2 large onion, diced
10 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1 liter milk
750 g dried macaroni or shells
Cherry tomatoes
6-10 hatch chiles, diced
250 g grated cheddar cheese
100 g grated parmesan cheese, plus more for crust
Salt and pepper to taste
Several sprigs of thyme, leave picked
Several splashes of Worcestershire sauce
Panko bread crumbs
Cayenne pepper 
Bacon: The world's most versatile meat adds both flavor and color (and clogs your arteries for free!).

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 F.
  2. Fry your bacon in a pan and set aside.
  3. Melt the butter in an ovenproof pot or cast iron Dutch oven over low heat (the ovenproof part isn't necessary but it will save you from transferring it later). Mix in the flour and ramp it up to medium heat. Stir constantly until an aromatic roux forms (about 10-15 minutes).
  4. Cook your garlic and onions in the roux until they start to caramelize and get sticky.
  5. Drop in the bay leaves. Then slowly whisk in the milk.
  6. Bring the mixture to a boil and let simmer to thicken. Stir occasionally to disrupt a milk skin from forming.
  7. Cook your pasta in salted water as instructed by the package. Once finished, drain and toss in with your sauce.
  8. Add the bacon, tomatoes, thyme, and hatch chiles. 
  9. Stir the cheese in until evenly distributed then season with salt, pepper and a few splashes of Worcestershire sauce.
  10. Transfer your mac and cheese to the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes. With about 10 minutes to go, top with a mixture of Panko bread crumbs, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper and parmesan cheese. Continue baking until the top is golden brown.
Mmm, crusty. Can you spot the bay leaf?
Ok, you've probably noticed by now that this is actually shells & cheese and not mac & cheese, but you can't tell me that you didn't think Velvetta Shells & Cheese was the greatest thing ever as a kid. We decided to save the macaroni for sweet art projects (and killer friendship necklaces) that Nancy will help sneak into the CAMH.

I like to think of it as mac & cheese mole people living under the seedy underbelly of the earth's "crust".
Personally, I thought the mac & cheese (Is it possible to actually write out "and" there? It just seems so wrong.) was the highlight of the meal. The hatch chiles infused it with their unique flavor, while the bacon infused it with its patented bacony awesomeness. The tomatoes provided some juicy bites, and the crust gave everything some texture. Plus, everything is surrounded by fantastic, gooey melted cheese, which is always a positive contribution to life. My only complaint is that it was a little dry. I think I overdid it on the amount of pasta, so you could either back off on some of the pasta, add more milk or completely drench everything in cheese to make up for this. Our interest in the hatch chile had definitely been piqued after our first few bites of the mac & cheese, and we were ready to dig in to the juicy pork chop that accompanied it. 
Dennis' food modeling career stays red hot. If you'd like to book him for your next big food gig, please contact me in the comments.
The meal continues with our hatch chile marinated pork tenderloin perched atop a delectable hatch and avocado puree.

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