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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Popovers

I became obsessed with popovers before I even tried them. I was a weirdo advocate based solely upon words; reading about them made me drool.  Fluffy, airy, and hollow? How can something so light and empty be so rich and heartwarming? Butter, eggs, flour,salt, milk. The simplicity of it is genius. They are really little puffs of buttery joy.

Last week, I popped these in the oven while I prepared a“quick and easy” recipe I found for hanger steak with wild mushrooms and red wine sauce. The steak was cooked perfectly thanks to Rob, but was very underwhelming, thanks to moi.
 
 
The aromatics of the garlic and rosemary were there, but thetastes of them were not.  Sometimes, you just have to give the flavorstime: time to develop and blend.  In trying to get dinner on the tablebefore 8pm, I completely lost my tasting instincts. I won’t share the recipe. Iwill wait until I can post one that I am proud of. But while you can strike thesteak down as another Lo failure (although I wouldn’t call it as disastrous as,let’s say, bon bons),I wasn’t totally defeated.

 

Thanks to Alton Brown, I was able to snap out of my pityparty and be happy with my popovers! They were a bit small on the smaller side,but, while they weren’t perfect, one bite made me pause and sigh withhappiness. Not under-salted, not too salted, simple- but not plain. When Icouldn’t stand the steak anymore, I ate two more. Accompanied by a big glass ofmerlot and Glee, it would be hard not to just relax and be happy. I was so excited for the earthly flavors from the sauce, but unfortunately that too was boring. 
Proof of popover
Recipe for Basic Popover
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus 1 teaspoon for the pan
  • 4 3/4 ounces all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoons kosher salt *
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup whole milk, at room temperature **
Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Grease a 6-cup popover pan with the 1 teaspoon of butter.
Combine the 1 tablespoon of butter, the flour, salt, eggs and milk in a food processor or blender and process for 30 seconds.
Divide the batter evenly among the cups of the popover pan, filling each one-third to one-half full. 
Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 40 minutes, taking care not to open the oven door. Remove the popovers to a cooling rack and pierce each one in the top with a knife to allow steam to escape. 
Serve warm. 
* Based on user reviews- I reduced salt to 1 tbsp
** I only had skim milk handy. Yes- I know whole milk would make a world a difference, but I am on a budget!