Mac-n-Cheese is one of those things in life that so many of us have in common. I come from a family of 6 and am the baby, baby, baby. My sisters and brother are 12, 10, and 8 years older than me, so my siblings were very much a part of my upbringing. I remember very clearly when my oldest sister Terry watched me I always requested Kraft mac-n-cheese. That’s right, I had the “blue box blues.” I loved it when she made it for me because she would add all the butter and milk that the recipe called for. When my mom made it, I think she secretly added water and margarine. Bleck!
As I have gotten older, I no longer crave the blue box, but my love of mac-n-cheese certainly has not faded. These days I love a rich, creamy bechamel based cheese sauce, baked, with a crunchy panko topping. I happened to get a block of bleu cheese for 99 cents at the grocery store this week and needed to use it, so decided to morph my usual cheesy mac into a buffalo chicken recipe.
I hope this recipe brings back as many homey and comforting memories for you as it did for me. Enjoy!
Buffalo Chicken Mac-n-Cheese
Yield: 8 Servings Active Time: 30 minutes Cook Time: 30 minutes
- 2 cups shredded chicken breasts, poached or rotisserie
- 3 cups medium shells
- 3 Tbsp. butter
- 3 Tbsp. flour
- 1 Tbsp. powdered mustard
- 2 cups milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup yellow onion, finely diced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 cup hot sauce (preferably Valentina)
- 1 large egg
- 12 oz. extra-sharp white cheddar, coarsely shredded (about 4 cups)
- 1 tsp. coarse kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp. fresh cracked pepper
- 3 Tbsp. butter
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs
- 1 cup bleu cheese, crumbled
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Poach enough chicken breasts to measure 2 cups shredded or use 2 cups rotisserie chicken.
- In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the shells 5 minutes. You want them undercooked. They will absorb the creamy cheese sauce in the oven and come out perfect. Drain and set aside. Do not rinse.
- In a heavy skillet over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and mustard and stir constantly for five minutes. Slowly stir in milk and cream. Increase heat to medium and whisk to remove any clumps.
- Add onion, bay leaf, and hot sauce. Simmer for about ten minutes or until the sauce thickly covers the back of a wooden spoon. Reduce heat to low and remove the bay leaf.
- Temper in the egg (instructions below). This is an important step. Don’t skip it!
- Stir in the cheese, salt, and pepper. Fold in the macaroni.
- Pour into a casserole dish. Top with bleu cheese.
- Melt the butter in a saute pan and toss the bread crumbs to coat. Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.
- Whisk egg in a bowl.
- Add a spoonful of sauce to egg while whisking.
- Continue adding a couple more spoonfuls while whisking. Then add warmed egg mixture to sauce in skillet.
- The purpose of tempering the egg is to slowly bring the egg to the temperature of the hot sauce. If you add the egg directly to the sauce it will scramble and give you an awful curdled texture.
- The egg, when tempered properly, will give a nice creamy texture to your finished dish.