World Famous Green Chile Mac & Cheese

Even folks who aren’t Mac & Cheese fans, love this hot and spicy, chile-laden version. Inspired by the famous Roaring Fork in Scottsdale.

LunaCafe Green Chile Mac & CheeseIf the great number of Google searches from around the globe that land on LunaCafe’s doorstep each week signify anything, then EVERYONE IN THE WORLD is looking for Chef Robert McGrath’s Green Chile Mac & Cheese recipe, which is a specialty of the Roaring Fork restaurant in Scottsdale, Arizona.

This frantic searching is a bit perplexing because the recipe is readily available in Robert’s most excellent homage to cowboy cuisine, American Western Cooking, which should definitely be in every good cook’s library. So, for the price of a cookbook, which is chock full of bold and delectable dishes that you will make again and again, you get the Green Chile Macaroni recipe. (If I haven’t convinced you to buy the book, you can go here instead and get the recipe for free.)

But before you shout HOORAY and run off to get the recipe, I must in good conscience tell you this one little thing.
Roaring Fork Green Chile Macaroni

There is no way on this sweet earth that the green chile mac & cheese recipe featured in American Western Cooking, which is the same recipe featured on Food Network, will produce the oh so cheesy, oh so hot as hell, oh so scrumptious, gooey green chile mac & cheese heaven that I was served at The Roaring Fork just two weeks ago. Not happening. No way. No how.

I know this because I’ve tested the recipe THREE TIMES, revising each test in the direction of my taste memory and photos of the dish. The basic issues with the available recipe, as compared to the restaurant version, are as follows:

  1. Not enough green chile flavor; barely perceptible in fact.
  2. Not enough chile heat (even with Tillamook Pepper Jack cheese).
  3. Only the palest shade of green (does not resemble the green of the restaurant version.
  4. Not enough cheese.
  5. Young cheeses, such as Jack, almost always curdle when brought anywhere near a simmer. The restaurant version features a fully bubbling, cheese-loaded, brown-crusted Mac & Cheese, and the cheese IS NOT curdled.
  6. The cheese used in the restaurant version has a distinctive flavor that is reminiscent of processed cheese. They might be using Queso Asadero, which has an almost “fake” but quite tasty flavor profile.
  7. The cheese used in the restaurant held a long gooey string beautifully and a lot of it was used. The dish was almost a Mexican Queso Fundido (cheese and cream fondue) with macaroni added.
  8. The restaurant version of this dish features a bread crumb topping, which is not specified in the recipe.
  9. The recipe recreation was bland and needed an acidic element for balance.

So although I definitely encourage you to hop a plane to Scottsdale as soon as you can, hurry over to the Roaring Fork, and sink your fork into a small iron kettle of Green Chile Macaroni, if you want to duplicate that exact recipe at home, you will have difficulty.

Nevertheless, I LOVE a challenge and thus am launching a Throw Down. Robert McGrath, are you hearing this? J After I identified two of the most significant issues (not enough green chile flavor and young cheese that curdles and separates when heated to bubbling), I went to work.
Green Chile Mac & Cheese: Fresh Anaheim Green Chiles

I love poblano chiles, but the ones that are available in the Northwest have hardly any heat and are mildly flavored. I could not produce a sauce with enough of that distinctive green chile flavor until I switched to Anaheim chiles. These green chiles are both hot and full-flavored.

Green Chile Mac & Cheese: Frozen Fire-Roasted and Peeled Green Chiles

For folks who don’t want to stem, seed, roast, peel, and chop enough green chiles to measure 3 cups, I also discovered frozen, roasted, peeled green chiles that pack a lot of heat and flavor (Bueno Mild Organic Green Chiles, available in 13-ounce cartons in the freezer case of Whole Foods). (Issues 1 and 2.)

Also, in order to make sure the green chile flavor was pervasive, I decided to create a silky Green Chili Crema and use that as the liquid element in a very thin béchamel sauce. (Issue 1)
Anaheim Chiles Ready to Broil

Although a béchamel sauce is not strictly required for this dish (and the Roaring Fork recipe does not use one), the butter and flour roux protect the cheese from curdling. Nothing is more disastrous to Mac & Cheese than curdled, separated cheese. (Issues 5, 6, and 7)

Another precaution on the curdling cheese front is the use of an aged cheese. Aged cheeses do not curdle as easily as young cheeses. Also, aged farmhouse cheddar just happens to taste spectacular. (Issues 5, 6, and 7)

The Roaring Fork green chile mac & cheese recipe uses so little cheese, it must be a misprint. In the restaurant version, cheese is used with wild abandon. I like that approach. J (Issue 4)
Anaheim Chiles After Roasting

A bread crumb crust adds so much textural and color interest to a Mac & Cheese that I always include it. And so does the Roaring Fork restaurant version. (Issue 8 )

The color was really perplexing me, until I separated out and focused on creating a Green Chile Crema. Increasing the quantity of chiles improves both the flavor and the color. To push the color up a notch more, I added green onions, which brought the flavor up another notch as well. (Issue 3)

Adding Cheeses to Green Chile Mac & Cheese

In the first two tests, the sauce was bland and uninspiring. It needed an acidic element to brighten the rich cream and subtle chile flavor. I decided on tomatillos and that proved to be the perfect flavor balancer for this dish. (Issue 9)

So here, without further ado is (my version of) the world’s most famous Green Chile Mac & Cheese.
LunaCafe Green Chile Macaroni and Cheese

 

To get the recipe, jump to LunaCafe OtherWorldly Green Chile Mac & Cheese

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Comments

  1. says

    Wow! Thank you for your efforts above and beyond! This looks so savory and satisfying – I can\’t wait to try it! I really like the idea of adding the tomatillos: such a great way to bring a little acidity and still keep inside the profile. Beautifully executed.

    • says

      Jameson, I look forward to the giant drum roaster that arrives at Portland Farmers Market every September. The aroma of those roasting chiles wafts over the entire market. So amazing!

  2. Italian pasta says

    Heya i am for the first time here. I came across this board and I in finding It truly useful & it helped me out much. I am hoping to offer one thing back and aid others like you helped me.

  3. VA says

    I can’t thank you enough for posting this recipe! I too tasted the Roaring Fork green chili mac n cheese, purchased the cookbook, and was disappointed with the obviously incorrect result. It’s been Eight Years on and off that I’ve been making variations of it trying to get it right and this was by Far the best! Quick Tip: Most local grocery stores have “Asadero” cheese labelled as “Oaxaca,” it does not state Asadero anywhere on the label but it is the same thing. It’s just the shape that changes the name, brick form is Asadero while braided/ball is Oaxaca.
    Thanks again for posting! It’s definitely that green chili crema that sends it over the top =) mystery solved!

    • Susan S. Bradley says

      Virginia, thanks so much for letting us know how this turned out for you. The green chile crèma was definitely the breakthrough for me in the LunaCafe test kitchen. And thanks also for the tip on the cheese–good to know. :-)

  4. Shari says

    Your recipe is the BOMB! I used hot NM chile and topped it with buttered panko breadcrumbs. Fresh corn cut off the cob takes it over the top in deliciousness.

  5. Anonymous says

    I own Bob’s cookbook, tried and true, the recipe was identical in flavor to Bob’s previous realm many moons ago at the Roaring Fork, must be the chef not picking the “right” poblano…sorry

  6. gypsybaker says

    I made the crema with poblano chiles from Mexico that I purchased at the Mexican market in West Palm Beach (because the Whole Foods in FL don’t carry the Bueno brand)…even though they made my fingers burn after seeding & de-veining them, they didn’t have much heat in the final product. Also, couldn’t believe it but even the Mexican supermarcardo doesn’t carry the queso called for; so, they sold me the alternative, which was so similar to mozzarella, I should have saved the gas $$ to drive there. All in all, this was good; but, I had to add Tabasco Chipoltle sauce to heat it up and even then, it just wasn’t worth the work…will have to try the original if I get back to Scottsdale anytime soon. If I still lived in PDX (sigh) I could have bought the chiles at the Sat. Farmers’ Market and it would have probably been splendid.

  7. AJ says

    Oh my goodness, this was amazing! I live in Chicago, so green chile is hard to find. I was lucky enough to get a batch shipped from NM last year but I was nervous about using the last of it for a dish I’d never tried. Let me tell you, it was well worth it. SO delicious – thank you! I used panko crumbs for the topping and it was great.

  8. Anonymous says

    I like your rendention. Very creative. I actually have the official recipe though because I used to work at the RF and the green chili Mac was at my station lol. But this is a good recipe.

    • Susan S. Bradley says

      Hmmm… For the sake of all humanity, you could do the right thing and share that recipe with ME. Please? :-)

  9. says

    Have you ever tried making this ahead of time and bake it from the fridge? Looks really great and I want to try it at the restaurant I work at. Thanks in advance!

    • Susan S. Bradley says

      Matt, oh yes, you can definitely make it ahead. Let me know how it works out for your restaurant.

  10. Madelaine says

    Thank you for doing this. I was just looking for the Roaring Fork recipe but there was no way any of those recipes would have produced the results I was looking for. Can’t wait to try yours.

  11. skilled skillet says

    This is AMAZING. If you have the crema already made its so much easier….. i used dry stuffing crumbs as the topping right before i put it in the oven. uhmmmm yeah good… my tastebuds thanked me.

  12. Jennifer Sword says

    This looks FABULOUS!! I’m from Phx (now in CO) and I have had this dish at Roaring Fork. Thanks for taking the time to go through this recipe step-by-step and remedy it. I always wonder if restaurants DO leave out a few key ingredients so the home cook can never quite achieve the real thing. We always buy roasted Hatch green chiles from NM here in CO so I will probably be using those. Thanks! :)

    • Susan S. Bradley says

      Jennifer, it’s possible of course that the original recipe left with the original chef (Robert Mcgrath) and that what they make now uses a different recipe. Regardless, what they serve now is really spectacular, and I had to have it whenever and wherever. If you get a chance to try my recipe, let me know how close I came to the restaurant’s version. :-)

  13. Anonymous says

    There better when you cut the tops off, take the seeds out, stuff it with cheese, tear a tortilla inhalf and stuff in inside to keep the cheese from melting out. BBQ style

  14. Fred says

    I am working on a recipe for Buffalo Chicken mac & cheese and I think this looks like the perfect mac & cheese base. Now I just add shredded roasted checken and buffalo chicken spiced bread crumbs as the topping.

  15. says

    My family including the dog loves the Anaheim pepper. We often prepare it on the BBQ grill, just cut open and spread it over the grill to roast for a few minutes turn and it is down in one minute.

  16. Minhaj says

    I went to the Roaring Forks and loved this dish so I bought the cookbook. You are right, the guy is totally sandbagging on the recipe in the book. The version you printed is much better and closer to what is served in the restaurant. Thanks for printing it!

    • Susan S. Bradley says

      Minhaj, LOL! I’m so glad you affirmed that for everyone. The “official” recipe is not even in the ballpark. Well, it’s fine that they want to keep it a secret (I respect that), but what purpose is served in trying to deceive folks?

  17. Tomas says

    This has become a favorite here in the hood. I made a slight variation in I used a cast iron dutch oven and cooked on my Big Green Egg to get a nice smoke flavor. My toughest task is getting the htach green chiles here in the ATL.

    • Susan S. Bradley says

      Tomas, that sounds so fantastic! What a great touch to imbue with smoky flavor. Can’t wait to try that.

  18. Nancy says

    I was disappointed in how mine came out. It was dry and not creamy at all. The recipe says 3 cups of the chili creama even though it makes just about 6 cups. Are we suppose to use all of the creama in this recipe? I used 1# of the conchiglie pasta and made my own grilled peppers as our whole foods doesn’t carry the frozen ones although the guy in charge of the frozen section wrote down the info. I gave him your website and the recipe!

    The flavor is outstanding and I will use the left-over creama for either enchiladas or try this recipe again.

    The sauce is just beyond words!! Yummm!

    Nancy

    • sms bradley says

      Hmmm… I wonder what happened? In my multiple tests, the mac & cheese was very saucy and creamy. I purposely included enough thin sauce (3 cups) to compensate for the al dente pasta, as it will absorb some sauce during the baking time. But in your instance, the pasta must have absorbed too much of the sauce. Overbaking can cause this, so be sure not to go too long in the oven. Your instincts are good though in thinking you might add additional crema to the mac & cheese, even after you have baked it. Just drizzle a cup of additional crema over the dish and heat for another 10 minutes or so. Next time though, using that same pasta, increase the sauce to 4 to 4 1/2 cups. Hope this helps!

  19. Bill says

    This recipe is AWESOME! I just made it and it is the creamiest, best tasting mac I have ever made. It is VERY similar to The Roaring Fork dish in taste and creaminess. My compliments to the author. I was lucky enough to find a 27oz can of whole fire roasted, peeled poblano peppers by Hatch, in my supermarket. It made the Green Chili Crema really easy. Try it…you’ll love it!

    • sms bradley says

      Thank you so much, Bill, that’s wonderful to hear! :-) Mac & Cheese weather is upon us. I will be whipping this casserole up soon myself. Happy holidays! …Susan

  20. says

    Wow, now I’m not a huge mac and cheese fan but my mouth is absolutely watering reading this. Great write up and very informative. This looks like the perfect mac and cheese I’d want to make, I love spicy and a good selection of yummy cheeses. I also really love the idea of the bread topping and corn too. I’ve never heard of queso asadero cheese though, what would it be most similar to if I can’t find that exact style of cheese?

    Thanks for this delicious recipe and write up, I really can’t wait to try it. I’ll let you know how it turns out. I might just turn into a mac and cheese fan afterall :)
    .-= Dana ´s last blog ..Is your dog afraid of Thunderstorms? A Superhero Cape or ‘Thunderwear’ may help! =-.

    • sms bradley says

      Thank you so much, Dana! :-) Queso Asadero is an interesting cheese. It is full flavored in a non aggressive sort of way,, rich, and very creamy. It has some of the characteristics I associate with processed cheese, but it isn’t processed. I enjoy the flavor but I include it in this mix of cheeses more for its superb melting quality. You can find it in some grocery stores or any Mexican market. If it’s not easy to get in your area, try mozzarella. Hope you love this dish as much as I do.

  21. Donna says

    Really enjoyed the article and recipe. Can’t wait to try this! We recently moved from Colorado to Ohio (job transfer) and are very homesick for green chile anything. I think I might add some sliced chicken breast to it and make it a one pot meal. Thanks!!!

  22. Laurie says

    We ate at the Roaring Fork on Sunday, and had this, it was amazaing!!! I am making it for fourth of July this weekend, can’t wait! Thank you

    • sms bradley says

      Thank you, Laurie! I’m feeling like a Mac & Cheese fix myself all of a sudden. Too bad the Roaring Fork isn’t just a wee bit closer to Seattle. :-)

  23. Nicole Skillings says

    I’ve eaten at Roaring Fork at least 10 times, every time I get steak with the green chili mac and cheese. It is the best! I can’t wait to try making this at home. But I do want to add that as far as I can remember, there is no corn in it. I hate corn in mac and cheese 😛

    Nicole Skillings´s last blog post..Fourth Judge Not Welcome

    • says

      Sara, thank you! It is spicy but not “hot as hell” as Roaring Fork’s restaurant version is. If you make it with poblano chiles instead, it will have barely any heat.

  24. says

    Oh, my. This looks fabulous! My boyfriend is a sucker for anything spicy and any and all types of mac n’ cheese… he will be in heaven when I make this…. Thanks!

Trackbacks

  1. […] Texas-born Chef Robert McGrath—author of American Western Cooking and one of Food and Wine magazine’s “10 Best Chefs in America”—is the genius behind this much sought-after dish served at Roaring Fork in Scottsdale, Arizona. The ingredients include a variety of sweet and hot peppers and fresh sweet corn, which give the dish its impossible-to-duplicate green hue and spicy kick. Photo courtesy of sms bradley/TheLunaCafe.com. […]

  2. […] Texas-born Chef Robert McGrath—author of American Western Cooking and one of Food and Wine magazine’s “10 Best Chefs in America”—is the genius behind this much sought-after dish served at Roaring Fork in Scottsdale, Arizona. The ingredients include a variety of sweet and hot peppers and fresh sweet corn, which give the dish its impossible-to-duplicate green hue and spicy kick. Photo courtesy of sms bradley/ TheLunaCafe.com. […]

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