Best Mac-N-Cheese (2002)

Roaring Fork

We grew up on mac-n-cheese, homemade with ooey-gooey neon orange Velveeta. It was one of our all-time favorite meals. When we left home for college, we were too lazy to cook it Mom's way. Mac-n-cheese devolved to the boxed variety, powdered sauce mixed with milk and butter. It was still pretty good, and we thought we were mighty fancy when one day we sprinkled black pepper on it. Mild cheese and spicy heat, how great is that?

Then we grew up. One day, we wandered into Roaring Fork, chef Robert McGrath's cowboy cafe, and life was never the same. Because we found mac-n-cheese on his menu, but mac-n-cheese unlike any mac-n-cheese we'd ever had before. Sheer heaven.

McGrath puts an American West spin on his noodles, with a wow base of puréed poblano chile. More than macaroni, he sautés diced red bell pepper, red onion, minced garlic and corn kernels in corn oil until just tender. Then he stirs in the pasta and green chile, plus lots of grated pepper Jack cheese and heavy cream. The finishing touch -- generous sprinkles of kosher salt and cracked black pepper.

Sorry, Mom, we love you, but Velveeta just can't cut it anymore.

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