Well, it’s that time again! The second biggest food day of the year, only defeated by Thanksgiving, Superbowl Sunday. In two days, people all over the country will huddle ’round their big screens, argue play calls, critique commercials, and munch on some of the most American finger food there is. Although my own play book is filled with some of the most savory and mouth watering dips, picks, and mini-bites, I thought I’d post a nod to one of my best friends favorite dishes. It was a recipe I found on Food Network’s website (whose app adorns all of my technology devices in the house) that I adapted to fit my own taste. It’s a twist on two classic recipes that’s sure to make your guests rule touchdown! Here’s Heidi’s favorite Buffalo Chicken Mac ‘n Cheese:
3 TBS Unsalted butter
1/2 lb elbow macaroni (or your favorite short pasta, shells are mine! Holds the cheese the best!)
1/2 finely chopped onion
1 stalk chopped celery
2 cups shredded cooked chicken (grocery store rotisserie chicken is great for this and super easy! Make chicken salad with leftovers for easy sandwiches post-game day)
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 cup Frank’s hot sauce (this is my favorite but whatever you have in the fridge is fine)
1 TBS all-purpose flour
1 tsp dry mustard
1 1/4 cups half and half
1/2 lb shredded sharp cheddar cheese (I find shredding the cheese myself is tedious but well worth the added creamy texture)
4 oz shredded pepper jack cheese (again, get that arm workout in!)
1/3 cup sour cream
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
1 TBS chopped parsley
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter your choice of baking dish. (I usually use two smaller dishes to bring Heidi her own!) Bring water and a pinch of salt to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente, about 6-8 minutes, and drain.
While your pasta is cooking, let’s multi-task! Melt 1 1/2 TBS of butter in a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add the onion and celery cooking until tender, about 4-5 minutes. Add the chicken and garlic, cooking about 2-3 minutes. Then add a little over 1/4 cup of hot sauce and simmer until the mixture thickens slightly, about 2 minutes. Set aside.
Next, let’s make the “roux.” This sounds difficult but it’s really simple, helps thicken any sauce, and sounds really fancy when you’re telling your friends your secret recipe 🙂 In a new saucepan, melt 1 1/2 TBS of butter over medium heat. With a whisk (I think this is the easiest) stir in flour and dry mustard. It will begin to bubble in the butter and I usually whisk for about 1 minute to make sure that flour taste is completely cooked out. Voilà, perfect roux! Whisk in the half and half and remaining hot sauce until thickened. Whisk in the cheddar and pepper jack cheeses until melted, then add the sour cream until smooth and creamy.
Now to assemble! Layer half the macaroni in your baking dish, top with the chicken mixture and then the remaining macaroni. Pour the cheese sauce evenly over the top.
For the topping, melt 2 TBS of butter in a bowl. Add the panko breadcrumbs, blue cheese, and parsley. Crumble atop the macaroni. Bake for 30-45 minutes, or until bubbly and beginning to brown on top. (My husband and I always fight over the crispy edges!) Don’t forget to let the casserole rest for about 10 minutes before digging in!
Well, there it is! A perfect blend of two Superbowl classics. Not exactly the low-cal version but a tasty splurge for game day and the perfect spicy bite to quench my pregnancy craving for fire! Did you know that on average Americans eat 1.25 billion buffalo wings each Superbowl Sunday? That’s enough to fill a football field over 1,000,000 times! And if you need a beverage to cool all that heat, take a sip of the 325 million gallons of beer game watchers will gulp down. (www.huffingtonport.com) Hope you and your football guests will enjoy this recipe as much as my friend Heidi does. Now I just need to figure out how to get her to make it for herself! Happy Superbowl Sunday readers!
Stephanie a.k.a. The Foodetarian