I don’t usually watch too much Food Network these days – in their shift from chefs driven shows to having a bunch of “personalities”, I’ve lost a bit of patience for the network itself – there’s only so much Guy Fieri one can take before you reach for the remote. And anyone who employs Sandra Lee thinking she is what viewers want to watch lets me know that I’m not exactly Food Network’s demographic. However, I have fallen in love with their magazine – not a month has gone by where I haven’t found a recipe that screams “make me!”, and that ends up so incredibly delicious it makes me wonder why I never thought of these things myself.
Such is my experience with their recipe for buffalo chicken macaroni and cheese – it takes two of my favorite comfort foods (hot wings and macaroni and cheese) and pairs them in such a way that the fusion of flavors is even better than the individual dishes they’re inspired by. It’s creamy, spicy but not too spicy, and just a marriage made in heaven, as least as far as I’m concerned.
It’s a quick dish that’s sure to please just about everyone. And what truly makes the dish is the blue cheese-studded panko on top, so be sure not to leave that part out.
We really didn’t adapt the recipe too much – the only changes we made were using Barilla Plus elbows – a bit healthier for you, and you can’t tell the difference, but there’s only about 14 oz. in a box, so it’s a bit short of the pound of elbows the recipe calls for. And instead of cutting the cheddar cheese into cubes, we shredded it as well, so it would incorporate into the sauce better.
Buffalo Chicken Macaroni and Cheese
recipe courtesy Food Network Magazine
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the dish
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
1 pound yellow sharp cheddar cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 3 1/2 cups)
8 ounces pepper jack cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
2/3 cup sour cream
1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.