I don’t remember exactly how I found this recipe, but on the last snow day, I wound up perusing Yum Sugar‘s site, and focused on one of their posts about macaroni and cheese. They had quite a few different types, but one really stuck out. As a spicy anything lover, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make the Buffalo Chicken Mac ‘n Cheese.
Since my fiancé and I had a busy weekend, we decided to be daring and tackle the recipe during the week. Monday night was filled with a trip to the gym, dropping off our rent, stopping at the grocery store for some forgotten spices, coupled with me dying from my typical intestinal issues. That’s neither here nor there. The important fact is that I got to make it Tuesday.
I usually try to stay away from recipes that require more than minimal work during the week. So that means less than a 20 minute cook time with minimal prep. We’re big fans of the Bertolli spinach & ricotta tortellini because it’s ready in 10 minutes and absolutely delicious. But knowing we need to expand our week night horizons, I thought this would be an excellent choice. Plus, Tuesdays are always so bland. We both work for a software development company in the time & attendance / payroll industry, and everyone likes to process payroll Tuesdays. So we’re always busy, plus there isn’t any good TV (though MTV’s 16 & Pregnant is becoming increasingly interesting).
Back to the task at hand – the making and devouring of the Buffalo Chicken Mac ‘n Cheese.
There were A LOT of little steps to get this guy going. First, I needed bread and cook the chicken and put it aside. I also needed to make the macaroni, pretty much at the same time, to ensure there wasn’t a lot of lag time between. Then I needed to make the onion, garlic and milk mixture. My stove top could barely handle the pressure!
Those were really the only tedious parts; mixing all of the cheese and then the final ingredients together was easy. Like always, waiting was torture because I am one of the most impatient, anxious, and ADHD people around. Thankfully my fiancé is the same way, so we manage to entertain each other. Usually ridiculously.
Now this is NOT the type of recipe to make if you’re on a diet, if you’ve already eaten a lot of calories for the day, etc. Of course no mac ‘n cheese is “good for you.” But I’m yet to meet someone that doesn’t love it, so it’s worth it! This particular recipe has a ton of butter, milk, and cheese, and all things wonderfully fatty. But after running a solid 4.5 miles, a nice mile and a half over the training that was required for the day and in a decent time, the indulgence was only appropriate.
Because the recipe has so many heavy ingredients, you really don’t need to have much. Pair it with a simple green salad, and you’ll be good to go!
You’ll find the recipe below. It makes 12 servings. I actually cut it down so it was only a third of the 12 servings, and there was definitely enough for 3-4 people.
Thanks again to my wonderful fiancé for the great pictures! You can check out more of his other pictures over at his blog; I Hate Fun.
Buffalo Chicken Mac ‘n Cheese
2 cups unseasoned breadcrumbs
1-1/2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
1-1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
Freshly ground black pepper
3 large eggs
1 pound chicken cutlets
6 tablespoons canola oil, plus more as needed
1 pound elbow macaroni
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, divided
3 cups chopped onions
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup all purpose flour
4 cups whole milk
1 cup grated jack cheese
1 cup grated extra sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup creamy and crumbly blue cheese (recommended: Maytag Blue), crumbled, plus more for garnish, if desired
2 teaspoons paprika
1 cup Frank’s RedHot Original or other hot pepper sauce
1 stalk celery, finely diced
1. In a medium bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, salt, cumin, cayenne, and pepper. Beat eggs in a shallow bowl. Coat chicken pieces with the breadcrumbs, dip in the eggs, then coat again with the breadcrumbs; place on a plate. Repeat with the remaining chicken.
2. In a large, heavy skillet, heat 1/4 cup canola oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add two of the chicken tenders and cook, turning once, until golden, about 3 minutes. Repeat with the remaining chicken, adding more oil if necessary. Using a slotted spoon, transfer cooked chicken to paper towels to drain. Cut into 1-inch pieces; set aside.
3. Cook macaroni in a large pot of boiling salted water until pasta is tender but not quite cooked through, about 6 minutes. Drain; transfer to very large bowl.
4. Melt 6 tablespoons butter in same large pot over medium heat. Add chopped onions and garlic. Cover; sauté until onions are soft but not brown, stirring often, about 6 minutes. Add flour; stir 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in milk. Bring to boil, whisking frequently. Reduce heat and simmer sauce 2 minutes. Add all cheeses, paprika, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Whisk until cheeses melt and sauce is smooth, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Season to taste with more salt and pepper, if needed. Mix cheese sauce into macaroni. Mix in half the chicken pieces. Mound mixture in 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish.
5. Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake macaroni uncovered until heated through, about 25 minutes.
6. Meanwhile, stir hot pepper sauce and remaining 2 tablespoons butter in small saucepan over medium heat until butter melts.
7. Remove macaroni from oven and top with remaining chicken pieces, then spoon 4 tablespoons of hot pepper and butter sauce over macaroni. Bake for 5-7 more minutes.
8. Sprinkle top of macaroni with finely diced celery and more blue cheese crumbles; serve immediately, passing around extra hot pepper sauce.
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