Buffalo Chicken Mac & Cheese

As soon as I saw this recipe, I knew I had to make it because my husband loves buffalo wings.  My Aunt Cindy gave me a buffalo chicken dip recipe, which we both enjoyed a lot.  After making it several times, I wanted to try to incorporate that buffalo flavor into something else.  I came across this recipe in my Food Network Magazine probably six months ago and finally decided to make it.  I guess football season pushed me to do it…

Materials:

  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the dish
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 3 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup hot sauce (preferably Frank’s)
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 2 1/2 cups half-and-half (I used fat free)
  • 1 pound yellow sharp cheddar cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 3 1/2 cups)(I used 2%)
  • 8 ounces pepper jack cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
  • 2/3 cup sour cream (I used light sour cream)
  • 1 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Procedure:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 7 minutes. Drain.

2. Meanwhile, melt 3 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. 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.

3. 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 half-and-half, 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

Observations: The pasta was a little too soft because I cooked it too much in the water. I didn’t leave it “al dente”, which I can never get right.  However, the flavor turned out great.  It tasted like a cheesy buffalo chicken sandwich. I used a porcelain covered cast iron lasagna pan, which made the cheese crunchy on the outside. The panko made it crispy on top as well.  You really get a mouthful of flavors and textures from this dish.

Analysis: Brandon and I both loved this, but it made SO much!  On the plus side, we had leftovers for days. I would recommend making this for company, like a large football crowd. If you are the vegetarian type, omit the chicken altogether. For a lower fat version, I used low fat/fat free dairy products.  However, I could not find a cheap low fat pepper jack cheese, so I used the regular kind.  The dish was still full of flavor with these small changes.

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