Nathan requested this meal based on the menu of a local restaurant to us that serves varieties of mac and cheese. I went to the internet to see if I could find a base recipe. I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to do since I have a pretty bitchin' regular mac and cheese recipe and last week made a buffalo chicken and rice casserole that turned out super delicious (we like buffalo stuff in our house).
This recipe is based off the Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese from Food Network. I'm sure that their recipe would have turned out just fine on its own, but I felt that it could be at least a little healthied up without loosing the delicious cheesy sauce... plus I didn't have all the ingredients. I reduced and replaced the half and half with whole milk, replaced the sour cream with low-fat yogurt, replaced the rotisserie chicken with boneless skinless chicken breast, and reduced the amount of butter, I also wanted to make it into more of an appetizer than a main course so I baked it in 6oz ramekins.
Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 cup hot sauce (I used Franks based on other reccommendations, but any of this type of sauce will work)
2 1/2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tsp mustard powder
2 cups whole milk
16oz sharp cheddar cheese shredded
8oz pepper jack cheese shredded
3/4 cup plain yogurt (I used reduced fat)
1 lb box maccaroni
5 tbsp butter
1 cup panko crumbs
1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles
|it was almost painful not to immediately eat this bite|
Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.
In a large pot of salted water, cook the maccaroni al dente according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
Cut the chicken breasts into small, bite sizes pieces--about 1/2 inch square. In a large, non-stick skillet melt 1 1/2 Tbsp butter. Cook the chicken until no longer pink. Add in the onion and celery and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add in 1/4 cup of hot sauce and cook about 2 mins more. Remove from heat and set aside.
In a large sauce pan, melt 2 tbsp butter over medium heat. Add in the flour and mustard and whisk into the butter to form a roux. Stirring continuously, cook the butter mixture for a minute (this eliminates the floury taste of the flour). Add in the milk.
Continue stirring continuously over medium heat until the milk mixture is thickened (it will also start to simmer). Remove from heat and immediatly stir in the cheese. When the cheese is melted, stir in the yogurt and the remaining 1/4 cup of hot sauce. The sauce will be a little bit thinner than normal cheese sauce, but this is ok because you're going to bake it and it will become super creamy.
In a microwave safe bowl, melt 1 tbsp butter. Mix in the panko crumbs and the crumbled blue cheese.
Use the remaining 1/2 Tbsp to butter your ramekins. You will need quite a few. I ended up not having enough (I used about 16) and made the remainder of my ingredients into casserole form in a 9x9 pan.
You don't need a lot of butter on the ramekins since you'll eat the mac and cheese straight out of them.
Place your ramekins onto a baking sheet (for ease of getting in and out of the oven).
Into the bottom of each put about a Tbsp of maccaroni, top with a spoonful of chicken mixture, top with some more maccaroni and then about 2 Tbsp of cheese sauce. Top with a nice spoon of panko crumbs.
Bake for 10 minutes in a 350 oven. Let rest for about 5-10 minutes before serving.
If you have to make some into a casserole like me, assemble in the same way and bake for 30 minutes at the same temperature.