MACARONI AND CHEESE
With Grilled Onions, Chiles, and Corn

Source: BBQ USA by Steven Raichlen (Workman Publishing, 2003)

Method: Direct and indirect

Yield: Serves 4

Coarse salt (kosher or sea)
2 cups (about 8 ounces) elbow macaroni
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 ears sweet corn, shucked
1 medium red onion, peeled and quartered
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus 2 tablespoons butter
Freshly ground black pepper
6 to 8 New Mexican green chiles or Anaheim or California peppers, or
2 to 4 poblano peppers
1 yellow bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups half-and-half, light cream, or milk
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 cups (about 8 ounces) grated smoked cheese, preferably smoked Cheddar
1/4 to 1/2 cup dried bread crumbs (preferably homemade)

You’ll also need:

A cast iron skillet, aluminum foil roasting pan or drip pan, or grill-proof baking dish (about 9 by 12 inches), sprayed or brushed with oil; 2 cups wood chips or chunks (optional; preferably hickory or oak); soaked for 1 hour in water to cover, then drained

Bring 8 quarts of lightly salted water to a rapid boil in a large pot over high heat. Add the macaroni and cook until al dente, about 7 to 8 minutes. Drain the macaroni in a large colander, rinse with cold water until cool, and drain again. Toss the macaroni with the oil to prevent sticking.

Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to high.

When ready to cook, lightly brush the corn and onion with half of the melted butter and season with salt and pepper. Place the corn and onion on the hot grate and grill until nicely browned, 2 to 3 minutes per side (8 to 12 minutes in all) for the corn, and 3 to 4 minutes per side (9 to 12 minutes in all) for the onion, turning with tongs as needed. Add the chiles and peppers to the hot grate and grill until the skins are charred, 3 to 5 minutes per side (6 to 10 minutes in all) for the New Mexican chiles, or 3 to 5 minutes per side (12 to 20 minutes in all) for the poblano peppers, and 4 to 6 minutes per side (16 to 24 minutes in all) for the bell peppers. Transfer the corn and onion to a cutting board and let cool.

Transfer the grilled chiles and bell peppers to a baking dish and cover with plastic wrap. Let the peppers cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes (the steam trapped by the plastic wrap helps loosen the skin from the peppers). Scrape the skin off the cooled peppers, then core and seed them.

Cut the corn kernels off the cobs using lengthwise strokes of a chef’s knife. Thinly slice the onion quarters crosswise. Cut the chiles and peppers into 1/4-inch dice. The recipe can be prepared to this stage up to 2 days ahead.

Melt the 2 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and shallot and cook until soft but not brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the corn kernels and grilled onion, chiles, and bell peppers. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the half-and-half and increase the heat to high. Let the mixture boil for 3 minutes, stirring well; it should thicken. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the mustard and cooked macaroni, followed by the cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste; the mixture should be highly seasoned. Spoon the macaroni and cheese into the cast iron skillet or oiled aluminum foil pan. Sprinkle the top of the macaroni with the bread crumbs and drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons melted butter over the bread crumbs. The recipe can be prepared to this stage up to 24 hours ahead.

Set up the grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium-high. If using a gas grill, place all of the wood chips in the smoker box or in a smoker pouch and run the grill on high until you see smoke, then reduce the heat to medium-high. If using a charcoal grill, preheat it to medium-high, then toss all of the wood chips or chunks, if desired, on the coals.

When ready to cook, place the macaroni and cheese in the center of the hot grate, away from the heat, and cover the grill. Cook the macaroni and cheese until the sauce is bubbly and the top is crusty and brown, 40 minutes to 1 hour. Serve at once.

© 2006 Steven Raichlen | site design Benjamin Wilchfort