Buffalo Chicken Mac & Cheese - yes, please!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Is there anyone who doesn't love mac & cheese?  It's a great comfort food, all warm and creamy and cheesy.  When I ran across this recipe in a magazine that crossed mac & cheese with the classic flavors of buffalo chicken wings - I knew I had to try it.  So glad I did!  This was scooped up quick, with just a little taste left for lunch the next day.  Check out the recipe and my notes below.

Buffalo Chicken Mac & Cheese
7 T butter
1 lb. macaroni
1 sm. onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
3 C shredded chicken
2 gloves garlic, minced
3/4 C hot sauce
2 T flour
2 tsp. dry mustard
2 1/2 C half & half
1 lb. yellow sharp cheddar, cut into 1" cubes
8 oz. shredded pepper jack cheese
2/3 C sour cream
1 C panko
2 T chopped fresh parsley

1) Preheat oven to 350; butter a 9x13" baking dish.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; add pasta and cook for about 7 minutes.  Drain.
2) Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add onion and celery and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the chicken and garlic and cook 2 more minutes, then add 1/2 cup hot sauce and simmer until slightly thickened, about 1 minute.
3) Melt 2 tablespoons butter in saucepan over medium heat.  Stir in the flour and mustard with a wooden spoon until smooth.  Whisk in the half & half, the add the remaining 1/4 cup of hot sauce and stir until thick, about 2 minutes.  Whisk in the cheddar and pepper jack cheeses; whisk in the sour cream until thick, around another 2 minutes.
4) Spread 1/2 of the cooked macaroni in the buttered dish; top with chicken and then the rest of the macaroni.  Pour the sauce over the entire thing.
5) Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a small skillet and mix in the panko and parsley.  Sprinkle over the sauce.  Bake until bubbly, 30-40 minutes.

A few things about this recipe.  First, as you can probably tell, it's not health food.  So you're not going to serve it every night.  But everyone needs something creamy and cheesy now and then; this will be it, I promise.  Second, when I hit the grocery store to pick up the few ingredients for this I didn't already have on hand, there was no Pepper Jack cheese in the store.  At all.  I honestly didn't think that was possible, but apparently, it is.  So I used Monterey Jack cheese and it tasted fine.  Pepper Jack will definitely give it an extra kick, though, and the next time I make it, I will be sure to have Pepper Jack first.  Also, use whatever chicken you have or want.  I used a rotisserie chicken because that's what the original recipe called for, but next time, I will just boil some chicken breasts and then shred them.  It's a little more work but worth it.  Also, be sure to use real panko versus breadcrumbs.  It gives a nice crunch and adds texture.  And last, about the hot sauce - 3/4 cup sounds like a LOT of hot sauce and I was a little scared.  But it really didn't end up being overpowering at all.  And I actually used a blend of two different hot sauces.  I had been to a home show awhile back, and they gave out free bottles of Texas Pete's hot sauce; I had both Original Hot Sauce and the Garlic Hot Sauce.  They have a great flavor, so if you're looking for some, you can check out their website and keep an eye out in the store for them.  Or even order from them online.

Let me know if you loved this as much as we did!


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