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.
 

Tagliatelle with Saffron Chicken

Little sis ready to cook

Tagliatelle with Saffron Chicken. YES, saffron and yes, yum. I knew that I had to try this recipe when I was browsing through my dad’s cookbooks and saw kitchen splatters on the pages. “Papa Miyashiro gave it the time of day, so the recipe must be good,” I thought.

Before I share details of the pasta, I must say its been quite a while since I’ve written anything. I am well aware that with the exception of my small loyal following, my absence in the blogging hemisphere has probably gone unnoticed. Even still, I feel a small dose of guilt for being MIA. About two months ago, I left my finance job and journeyed over to the fabulous Food Network. Next to being Ina Garten’s personal assistant, this is it: my big dream.

So where has all the blogging gone?

I’m inspired each day at work by the creative minds and delicious food, but I’ve also lost some of my kitchen sass and confidence. I’ve suddenly become hyper aware that I am a small fish in a big sea, or perhaps a small sprinkle on a big cake? I’ve realized though, that if I really want to be successful here, I need to continue to do the things that make me happy. Cooking is a huge part of that, and even if my little voice isn’t heard by many, sharing my passion is part of what contributes to this happiness. That’s how I came to this job to begin with.

But enough of that, this recipe is what I made with my little sister after my very first day working at Food Network. It went very smoothly aside from the fact that I doubled the amount of pasta. Unfortunately the creamy, delicious sauce really had to spread itself thin amongst too many big noodles. Next time, I will make this when I am in a less frazzled emotional state so that I am able to think clearly and logically. But aside from this small (or I guess realistically- big) mishap, the taste was all there. The touch of saffron adds a certain depth of flavor that I cannot describe quite yet.

And fine-I also have to admit that the chicken was bit overcooked. Womp. I was waiting for it to brown, and it never did! I’m slowly but surely learning the virtue of patience in the kitchen. I won’t be a savvy chef overnight, and however obvious that may seem to everyone else, I am finally coming to grips with that for myself. However, I still consider the dish a success, and a very suitable, self-congratulatory dinner to myself. At its core it is a no-fuss, comfort food–just a little more grown up, like me.

Bon appetit and happy holidays! Top on my 2012 New Year’s resolutions, eat and make more delicious food.

What the pasta should’ve looked like
My pasta, with too little sauce

Tagliatelle with Saffron Chicken
From Chicken and Egg by Janice Cole

Cook the tagliatelle in a large pot of boiling salted water for 4 to 6 minutes, or according to the package directions, and drain.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and heat the olive oil. Cook the chicken for 3 to 4 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Remove to a plate. Stir in the celery and cook for 1 minute. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds.

Increase the heat to hight. Pour in the wine and bring to a boil, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Boil until the wine is reduced by about half. Pour in the tomatoes and stir in the rosemary, saffron, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, and cook for 1 minute.

Add the cream and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Return the chicken to the skillet and cook for 2 minutes or until the chicken is no longer pink in the center and the sauce has thickened slightly. Add the pasta to the sauce and heat until hot. Stir in the parsley.

Serve immediately.