buffalo chicken mac and cheese

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I typically try to cook things that take less than an hour to make on weeknights.  The less time, the better but not at the expense of how it tastes. I’m willing to take the whole hour if it’s worth it.  But once in a while, you come across a recipe and think it will take an hour or so (give or take 15 min) and 2 hours later, you kick yourself for even starting the dish. That’s what happened to me with this dish. I wanted to cook.  I got home in time to do what I thought was a leisurely WEEKNIGHT meal and then realized after the point-of-no-return, that this was going to be a mad scramble to the finish. The result? It was tasty!  And the bonus was that it made a large quantity. But was it worth it?  Nah… not for me.
There are a few tweaks I would make for sure. First, the recipe was written in a way that I didn’t see the boiling-pasta part until later. Should this have been a no-brainer since I’m making mac n cheese? Absolutely. But this working mom has a lot on her brain and I’m used to recipes written so that the first line is a reminder to boil the pasta. I’ve changed the recipe below to reflect that. The original recipe doesn’t show that until step 3 or so.  Also, breading the chicken sucked up so much of my time! Was it tasty?  Absolutely and my son loved the breading but honestly, I’d rather buy chicken tenders from my local grocery store deli and cut that up. It would shave about 45 minutes off my time, which makes that shortcut worth it.  Also noteworthy is that I’m not a huge blue cheese fan. I ONLY like the good, creamy stuff and even then, in very limited portions. I bought a 4.4 oz wedge of the good, creamy stuff and started with half and then tasted it. I ended up using the whole wedge and it was not overpowering. It was delicious!  My daughter doesn’t handle the spicy stuff well yet, so I drizzled the hot sauce mixture on only half the dish and then had more available at the table on the side. It worked out perfectly so people could choose how much spice to add.  Even though it was unexpectedly long, I really enjoy these learning experiences and I love having an outlet to share my findings!
Oh, I did have something to help ease the pain of this long dish – an apple bourbon sidecar!  It packed a WHOLE lot of punch but it did the trick; taking the edge off my frustrations. It also helped pass the time a lot better as my chicken was browning 🙂

Buffalo Chicken Macaroni and Cheese

recipe from Popsugar, tiny edit by me 🙂

Ingredients

2 cups unseasoned breadcrumbs
1-1/2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
1-1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
Sea salt
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 Red Hot Original or other hot pepper sauce
1 stalk celery, finely diced

Directions

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake macaroni uncovered until heated through, about 25 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, stir hot pepper sauce and remaining 2 tablespoons butter in small saucepan over medium heat until butter melts.
  7. 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.
  8. Sprinkle top of macaroni with finely diced celery and more blue cheese crumbles; serve immediately, passing around extra hot pepper sauce.

Serves 12.

 

Apple Bourbon Sidecar recipe

recipe from Rachael Ray

Ingredients

  • 1 cup bourbon
  • 1/2 cup frozen apple juice concentrate
  • 1/4 cup orange liquer, such as Grand Marnier
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • Ice
  • Thin apple slices

 

Directions

  1. In cocktail shaker, combine first 4 ingredients. Fill with ice; shake vigorously until cold. Strain into 4 chilled martini glasses. Garnish with apple slices.
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