Poblano pepper adds a kick

By C. W. Cameron


56 E. Andrews Drive, Atlanta, 678-244-3600, www.cellar56.com

Q: I recently dined at Cellar 56 and could not get enough of the Spicy Mac ‘n’ Cheese. My table ordered three plates! What the heck do they do there to make it so good?

I would love to re-create this dish for my wife on our anniversary coming up. Please help! — Chad Evans, Atlanta

A: Stephen de Haan sent the recipe for this dish, so favored by Cellar 56’s customers it’s listed on the menu as one of the “House Favorites.”

The restaurant uses Wisconsin sharp white cheddar and Serrano ham — a dry-cured Spanish ham somewhat similar to prosciutto.

You can find both at the DeKalb and Buford Highway farmers markets.

Cellar 56’s Spicy Mac ‘n’ Cheese

1 pound orecchiette pasta

1 poblano pepper

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1 cup half-and-half

1/4 cup grated sharp white cheddar

1/4 cup grated Romano

5 ounces serrano ham, cut into 1/2-inch dice

1 tablespoon black pepper

In a large pot of well-salted water, cook pasta until al dente, according to package directions. When pasta is done, drain and keep warm.

While pasta is cooking, roast poblano pepper. Place pepper on gas burner or under broiler and heat until skin blackens and blisters on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove poblano, place in a small mixing bowl and cover. Allow to cool.

While poblano is cooling, in a large saucepan, bring cream to a boil. Then reduce heat and allow cream to simmer, cooking until reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Whisk occasionally to keep from scorching. Add half-and-half and return to simmer. Add cheddar and Romano and whisk until completely melted, about 1 minute. Sauce will thicken.

Remove poblano from bowl and peel off skin. Remove seeds and cut poblano into 1/4-inch dice. Add diced poblano, ham and black pepper to cheese sauce. Heat 3 minutes, then add pasta. Heat 1 minute more and serve hot. Makes 8 servings.

Per serving: 472 calories (percent of calories from fat, 48), 15 grams protein, 46 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 25 grams fat (15 grams saturated), 89 milligrams cholesterol, 336 milligrams sodium.