From classic stovetop shells to leek-and-cheddar penne, I've never met a mac and cheese I don't like. But the recipe I'd been craving most of all was one that, up until recently, only lived in my imagination: buffalo chicken macaroni and cheese.
My fantasy finally became reality one weekend when I put together all the elements I'd dreamed about. Al dente elbows of pasta, coated in creamy, sharp cheese sauce, topped with hot pepper sauce and crispy chicken.
It only occurred to me after sinking my teeth into the first bite that I could improve upon it even more by dotting the top with blue cheese crumbles and diced celery squares. That's why I can't wait to make it again! The epitome of indulgence, after the break.
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake macaroni uncovered until heated through, about 25 minutes.
- Meanwhile, stir hot pepper sauce and remaining 2 tablespoons butter in small saucepan over medium heat until butter melts.
- 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.
- Sprinkle top of macaroni with finely diced celery and more blue cheese crumbles; serve immediately, passing around extra hot pepper sauce.
- Pasta, Main Dishes
- North American