Buffalo Chicken Mac ‘n Cheese

I’m back! This time with no  big promises or apologies, simply this ohmygoodness mac n’ cheese.

I don’t know many people who don’t recognize the beauty of macaroni and cheese. I’m twenty-something, and I’m no where near done with the cheesy goodness. It’s not something you grow out of. Perhaps you have the willpower to turn it away, but I bet you still crave it. And I don’t blame you.

There are many variations of the dish that I love. Sometimes, its nice to go classy and enjoy a truffled mac n’ cheese (Extra Virgin in NYC has my favorite); other times its necessary to add some bacon (try Anne Burrell’s). And then there are nights that you need to spice it up.

I made this recipe for Rob on a recent date night. He was in the mood for buffalo chicken, and while I’m not usually drawn to hot wings, I’m powerless to homemade mac n’ cheese.  Its a bit of a lengthy process due to the time required for prep work and baking, but the end product is worth it.

The cheese and hot sauce meld together to create the perfect harmony between man food and comfort food. And the texture? Spot on. The panko adds a nice crunch, without overwhelming each bite. For the final topping, we substituted goat cheese for blue. We only sprinkled it over half of the dish in fear of the flavors not pairing well, but I wish we covered the whole dang thing. The goat cheese doesn’t melt completely and keeps its creamy, smooth texture, which offers a cool  relief to the spicy sauce.

Buffalo Chicken Mac ‘n Cheese

This recipe is modified from the Food Network Kitchens’ original. Although I tried to explain that adding celery wouldn’t make the pasta taste like celery, Rob was too skeptical (the dinner was for him after all). We followed the recipe from Tidy Mom instead, with only minor adjustments.

 Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons butter (divided)
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 3 cups shredded rotisserie chicken (if its small, use the whole thing)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup hot sauce (divided)
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 2 cups milk (I used 2%)
  • 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 pound yellow sharp cheddar cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 3.5 cups)
  • 8 ounces pepper jack cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese (blue, if your a buff chick purist)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F and grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 7 minutes. Drain.
  3. Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the chicken and garlic and cook 2 minutes, then add 1/2 cup hot sauce and simmer until slightly thickened, about 1 more minute.
  4. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the flour and mustard with a wooden spoon until smooth. Whisk in the milk and cream, then add the remaining 1/4 cup hot sauce and stir until thick, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the cheddar and pepper jack cheeses, then whisk in the sour cream until smooth.
  5. Spread half of the macaroni in the prepared baking dish, then top with the chicken mixture and the remaining macaroni. Pour the cheese sauce evenly on top.
  6. Put the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a medium microwave-safe bowl and microwave until melted. Stir in the panko, blue cheese and parsley. Sprinkle over the macaroni and bake until bubbly, 30 to 40 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.
 
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