Ok. It’s time to take a deep culinary breath and hold it for a count of ten. Because just around the corner lurks the frenzy of holiday cooking. In my estimation we have a week, tops, before the lid flies off the saucepan and starts its annual 6‑week whirl around the cook. You may want to take the little time we have left and make something just for yourself. Something comforting and familiar. Something like Mac and Cheese. Heeding my own advice I recently made Poblano Jack Mac and Cheese.
The recipe comes from the cookbook Southern Heat: New Southern Cooking Latin Style by The Food Network’s Extreme Chef winner Anthony Lamas and Gwen Pratesi of Bunkycooks. It’s a big, inspiring book. Bobby Flay describes it as “An American treasure with a Latin beat.”
Having recently returned from my own Latin cooking adventure I was anxious to thumb through the pages of this book and extend my education. I grew up with solid Southern American food, so I had a few delicious expectations about what these pages might hold. What I found was an exciting combination of flavors, ingredients, and traditions where “Latin roots are blended with the best ingredients of the South.”
So if you’re curious about spicing up traditional Southern sides like corn pudding or butter beans you’ll find plenty of creative inspiration in the pages of Southern Heat. There are also sections outlining Latin and Southern pantry staples so you can learn about Latin spices like epazote, and the best way to serve Sea Island Red Peas (which I’ve always called cowpeas).
Poblano Jack Mac and Cheese
The Latin heat in this recipe for Jack Mac and Cheese comes from the just spicy enough poblano pepper. It’s a terrific addition to Mac and Cheese that traditionally shows up as a side dish at Southern Sunday suppers.
I made the recipe almost exactly as written because I wanted to experience the recipe as close to the chef’s intention as possible. As you can see the results are beautiful. However, because it’s mac and cheese there’s room to make the Latin flavors and Southern textures your own. I did bake the mac and cheese you see here a full 30 minutes (that’s 10 minutes longer than the recipe suggests) because I wanted a well-browned, crackly crust. If you want even more crackle and crunch you could try mixing the cheese sauce with the cooked macaroni before baking. In this version, I poured the sauce, as instructed, over the cooked macaroni once it was in the prepared casserole dish. This forms a thick and delicious gooey top layer that protects the noodles – keeping them soft and luscious. Pre-mixing the macaroni with the sauce will bring more pasta to the surface to get crunchy brown. Both versions are great. I just don’t know which Jack Mac and Cheese would be considered Latin and which Southern… GREG
I received a complimentary copy of the cookbook Southern Heat: New Southern Cooking Latin Style so that I might try this recipe for Poblano Jack Mac and Cheese. All opinions are my own.