The flavor of your favorite chicken chili all wrapped up in a delicious bowl of mac and cheese. It’s a marriage made in heaven.
I do not understand how a blue box has set the standard for mac and cheese. How were they able to corner the market with skinny, straight noodles and day-glo powdered stuff that might have been cheese at one point in its life?
While I may not be super gung-ho about making sure our family avoids all food coloring and preservatives (after all, that would mean I’d have to give up my Diet Coke), I do try to balance out the junk with not-so-junk foods.
Mac and cheese though, I dunno. I’ve made it with bacon. I’ve topped it with crunchy crumbs. And I’ve gussied it up with cheeses I can’t pronounce. Not a single one has received the Dudette seal of approval.
So, this time I figured I’d head off the beaten path and strike into new territory. Chicken mac and cheese. Cool idea, huh?
This dish comes from Food Network’s Weeknight Cooking section. It’s targeted to take 40 minutes from start to finish and I found the timing to pretty spot on, if not a few minutes quicker.
The process is a bit unique for a mac and cheese. It started with me cooking the pasta, then draining and rinsing it. I put it back in the pot and tossed it with the milk. Then I dumped the chicken and cheese over it and left it alone (no, I didn’t stir it).
I moved my attention to my skillet and sautéed the scallions along with chili powder, salt and pepper. I added some pico de gallo, then more butter and some flour, forming a paste. When ready, I poured in chicken broth and milk, stirring until it thickened.
The recipe said that it would take six minutes or so for the sauce to thicken, but mine was ready after about two minutes so I went ahead and poured it in the pot with the other ingredients. I stirred everything together until the cheese melted and the pasta was covered in creaminess.
Each serving was topped with a bit more pico de gallo.
This is really, really good. Hubby and I both enjoyed it a lot. Whatever the reason is for separating the cheese from the rest of the sauce, it works. The pasta was coated in creaminess, creaminess that tasted fantastic. I did poach a couple of chicken breasts instead of buying anything, but it was still a quick and delicious meal.
Dudette, yeah, well, this wasn’t from the blue box. Honestly, I think she did like it because she ate just about the whole thing, but she said it was only so-so.
What I’d Do Different Next Time
- Kosher salt
- 12 ounces elbow macaroni
- 1 1/4 cups 2% milk
- 2 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend (8 ounces)
- 2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken breast (skin removed)
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 bunch scallions, chopped
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1 12 -ounce container pico de gallo or fresh salsa (about 1 cup)
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook as the label directs. Drain, rinse under cold water and return to the pot. Toss with 1/4 cup milk. Top with the cheese and chicken (do not stir).
- Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the scallions, chili powder, 1 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper. Cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add half of the pico de gallo. Cook, stirring, until the scallions soften, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to medium. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and swirl to melt. Sprinkle in the flour; cook, stirring, until a paste forms, about 1 minute. Gradually stir in the broth and the remaining 1 cup milk. Bring to a simmer; cook, stirring occasionally, until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 6 minutes.
- Add the sauce to the pot with the pasta. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the cheese melts, about 3 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Top with the remaining 1/2 cup pico de gallo.
If you have a mac and cheese dish that comes close to copying the blue box’s version, I’d love to hear about it. Seriously.