On Tuesday I told you all that I bought some fancy local cheese and made a great burger – well I still had a lot left, so I was brainstorming things to make.
I remembered something I read by Martha Stewart that suggested using sharp, pungent cheese when making macaroni and cheese because, not only does it add some more pizazz and a grown-up twist, you also apparently fill up faster and so eat less (for a mac & cheese-aholic like me, this is great news).
But I couldn’t just do mac & cheese either. I decided to try to recreate my favorite thing on the menu from my old haunt in Pittsburgh, PA – Rock Bottom Brewery‘s mac & chicken. I’m happy to report the result was pretty awesome.
I adapted a great mac & cheese recipe from Alton Brown. If you use your time wisely and do a few things at once (e.g. start boiling the water for pasta once the chicken is halfway done) you’ll find that it doesn’t take you that long. This is something great to make early in the week or on Sunday night and have it last for several days.
Baked Mac & Chicken with a Kick
macaroni recipe adapted from Alton Brown
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast
1 pound shell pasta (small shells, not the kind used for stuffed shells)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon powdered mustard
2 cups milk (I used skim because that’s what we have on hand)
1/2 cup yellow onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon paprika
1 large egg
10 ounces sharp cheddar, grated
1/2 ounce Red Dragon cheese (Click here for my blurb about this spicy peppercorn and brown ale cheese; if you can’t find it, pick another melting cheese that has some bite!)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
fresh black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup plain bread crumbs (Panko are better, but use what you have)
Preheat oven to 425F. Trim the fat from your chicken and cut in half longways. Set on a baking sheet and season generously with paprika, salt, pepper and a little Montreal Chicken Seasoning. Bake for 20 minutes.
To make the best use of your time, as soon as you put the chicken in the oven dice the onion, shred the cheese and measure out your ingredients. When chicken is halfway done, set a large pot of water to boil for the pasta and add pasta once it’s boiling. While you’re heating up the water and the chicken is still in the oven, set a medium size pot on the stove and melt the butter. Whisk in flour and mustard powder – keep the mixture moving. When it’s lump-free, stir in milk, onion and paprika. Stir frequently for about 5 minutes.
The chicken should be done by now, so set it aside to cool and turn down oven to 350F.
Temper the egg slowly, then stir in 3/4 of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper, then fold the cooked pasta into the mixture. Shred cooked chicken or cut it into small pieces and incorporate with the pasta and mixture. Pour into a large casserole dish and top with remaining cheese.
Melt the butter for the topping in a small saute pan and toss the bread crumbs to coat. Sprinkle over pasta and bake for 30 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes before serving.