I have a special man friend in my life. He is hilarious, and generous. Sean loves all horrible action movies/shows with the worst possible acting I have ever seen in my life. It’s sort of endearing. He is of Norwegian heritage and VERY proud of this fact. His sister claims he also has a little bit of Irish, but that screws up his pure Norwegian blood, so don’t mention this little tidbit to him or he will have a heart attack.
He has a difficult time letting go of things that have lived out their shelf life. For example, he has a t-shirt with about 2 million holes in it. If a centipede makes its way into my bedroom at night, he is totally willing to kill it for me. He sort of has no choice since I am sitting on top of the kitchen table, screaming, “Make it go away!”
He is also a little tricky to cook for. Sean’s consumable preferences can often be categorized into three food groups,
1. The Peanut Group: All things peanut and peanut butter.
2. The Gatorade Group: I tried to explain to him that coconut water had more electrolytes and was much healthier, but his face from tasting a sip of it was response enough.
3. The Buffalo Group: Self-explanatory.
I was never that ecstatic about buffalo flavor pre-Sean, but now I sort of love it. Unfortunately, many buffalo-flavored foods come from suspect services. I wanted to cook something for him that entailed the buffalo goodness, while maintaining quality.
I had heard of buffalo macaroni and cheese, but it was not common enough to find at a restaurant in my neck of the woods that served it. I looked up a recipe and found one on Food Network. It was poopie. So, I changed it up, and made it 1,000 times better. That’s right, 1,000 times. I once made it and served it at a party the next day. I did not come out as good as usually, and two people still said it was the best macaroni and cheese they had ever eaten.
Today is Sean’s birthday, so we are going to eat it tonight and then go see the movie Thor. I am hoping I can use the mac ‘n cheese to bribe him into not wearing a helmet and sword to the showing.
Here is what you need,
There are a lot of ingredients, but trust me, it is WELL worth it!
For the Chicken
-4 chicken breasts
-about 1-2 cups of flour
-panko bread crumbs OR regular bread crumbs (I like to either buy the ones with seasoning, or add my own seasoning)
-about 1 1/2-2 cups of buttermilk OR one egg
-a drizzle of buffalo sauce (Frank’s works well)
For the Macaroni & Cheese
- 6 ¼ cups of elbow macaroni pasta
- ³/4 cup of buffalo sauce, plus about another 1 cup (I like it to taste very flavorful and slightly spicy, so I purchase both regular and hot buffalo sauce for the recipe)
- 2/3 cup of sour cream
- 2 ¹/3 cups of heavy cream
- 1 stick plus 3 tablespoons of butter (this should be cut into 4 tablespoons, 4 tablespoons, and 3 tablespoons)
- 2 teaspoons of flour
-2 tablespoons of flour
- 8 oz of pepper jack cheese
- 1 ½ pounds, or 24 oz of orange cheddar cheese (Use good quality cheeses from either a cheese shop, gourmet food store, or the nicer cheese section by the deli and produce. Not cracker barrel, or Kraft.)
-2 small onions, diced finely
-3-4 stalks of celery, dice finely
-2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 ¹/8 cup of panko bread crumbs (I like to either buy the ones with seasoning, or add my own seasoning)
- ½ cup of crumbled blue cheese
- 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley
For blue cheese dressing
- 2 oz or ¼ cup of blue cheese (crumbled)
- 1 tablespoon of cream & ½ tablespoon of milk OR 1 ½ tablespoons of half and half
- 1 ½ cups of mayonnaise
- a dash of salt and a couple of dashes of pepper, to taste
- 1 teaspoon of dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
If you are an impatient cook, you can always buy pre-made chicken and blue cheese dressing as a short cut. I do encourage you to try it this way once, because it tastes so DAMN good.
First you need your chicken prepped.
If you are using buttermilk to soak the chicken, then take 4 chicken breasts and place in a container with buttermilk.
Drizzle with buffalo sauce.
Put cover on and shake to mix.
Store in fridge overnight. This is a tried and true Southern method, and those Southerners sure know their food. It helps tenderize the chicken. If you really do not want to wait a night, you don’t HAVE to do this. It just makes the chicken better.
You need your chicken to be dried off as much as possible, so that the breading will cohere. Pat each breast dry with a paper towel (that sounded pervy).
Create an assembly line of flour, the buttermilk mixture, and panko bread crumbs (or regular bread crumbs).
Pour cooking oil into a pan. Turn pan on medium, or medium high. Your oil needs to be hot enough, or else the breading will fall off. I the chicken is sticking to the pan then the oil is not deep enough. Lay chicken on one side and cook thoroughly. Use a fork to turn it over and cook the other side.
Lay chicken on paper towel-lined plate to soak up excess oil.
Grab your macaroni. Pour about 10 cups, or 2 ½ quarts of water into a pot. Add some salt and turn on high until it is boiling.
As soon as it is boiling, add macaroni pasta. Wait until water comes to a boil again, and set timer for 7 minutes. The pasta will be al dente at this point.
Immediately drain in a cauldron.
While pasta is boiling, combine your veggie and chicken mix for the sauce.
Grab 3 tablespoons of butter, onion, celery, minced garlic, chicken, and ¾ cup of buffalo sauce.
Did you notice there are two bottles of buffalo sauce? I found that the first time it was not “buffaloey” enough. In other words the flavor was too weak. I also didn’t want it to be way too hot either, so I split my measurement between half regular sauce and half hot sauce. I found that this was the perfect balance, but you can use whichever based on your preferences.
Melt the 3 tablespoons of butter in a large pan.
Add onions and celery. Cook until slightly soft and translucent (about 4 minutes).
Add garlic and chicken and cook for a couple of minutes.
Now add the buffalo sauce. Stir until well combined and thick.
Turn the heat off, and leave the mixture in the pan on the side.
Time for the sauce. Grab your 4 tablespoons of butter, flour, dry mustard, cream, 1 cup of buffalo sauce (as I said before, I like a lot of buffalo flavor so I actually used ½ cup of regular buffalo sauce, and ¹/3 cup of hot buffalo sauce), cheese, and sour cream.
Turn over on to 350° to preheat.
Grab out a BIG pot. Melt the 4 tablespoons of butter. Then whisk in flour.
Whisk in the dry mustard powder.
Once it is nice and thick, add your cream and buffalo sauce.
Add the cheese and whisk continuously until completely melted.
This reminds me of how weak my arms are.
I have no muscle.
Whisk in sour cream until it is smooth.
Scoop the chicken and vegetable mixture from the other pan, and add it to the sauce.
Add in macaroni pasta and mix until combined.
Spray or brush a 9×13 glass baking dish. I like to use an all natural olive oil spray. Scoop macaroni and cheese into the dish.
Before it bakes, you need to prep the topping.
Grab your panko crumbs, blue cheese, parsley, and the other 4 tablespoons of butter.
Melt the butter, for about 25 seconds in the microwave. Mix in panko, parsley, and blue cheese. Stir until butter is mixed into all of the panko crumbs.
Top the macaroni and cheese with the crumb mixture. Place into oven and bake for 25-35 minutes until it is bubbling.
While it bakes, this is a good time to make the blue cheese dressing.
Get your blue cheese, mayo, pepper, salt, white wine vinegar, dijon mustard, and either cream with milk or store-bought half and half.
Combine in a food processor. Process it enough so that the blue cheese is broken down. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Now spoon the dressing into a condiment bottle (like the ketchup bottles you see on picnic tables at food stands), or I like to use the decorating bottles for icing instead. You can find these online, at craft stores, or in baking supply stores.
Take you macaroni and cheese out of the oven and let it sit to cool for a while.
A couple of notes:
-I like my mac ‘n cheese to be ”saucy.” I you like more pasta, then there will still be a cup or two left in the 1 lb box of macaroni after the amount I instructed to measure out for the recipe. More pasta will create a more firm macaroni and cheese. I like when it oozes and is a messy collection of flavors, so modify this if need be.
-It tastes best when baked and served the same day. One time I baked it a day after, and it had already lost some of its amazing creamy texture. Even the flavor was not as amazing.
-If this sounds like too many steps, or if you want to have it made fresh but don’t have as much time then you can measure, cut, shred, all of the ingredients the day before. The prepping takes longer than the cooking over the stove. You can also cook the chicken, pasta, and make the blue cheese dressing in advanced. I do all of this (except for the pasta) the day before and it makes a HUGE difference.
-Again, if you are one of those people who complain about it taking too much work or involvement, then you obviously have never tried something like this before. The first minute of absolute perfection and indulgence when you bite in, makes it worth it.
Once cooled, serve on a plate and drizzle some of the blue cheese on top.
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On a side note, Sean exclaimed to me the other day, “With all of this cooking you should have a show on Food Network. It would be called Kitchen Wars. I would run around the kitchen picking at everything, and you have to make me stop while cooking at the same time.”
Happy Birthday Sean
PS- If you really want your socks knocked off try this recipe or two other mac n’ cheese varieties on MACARONI AND CHEESE PIZZA. You heard me…
Macaroni and Cheese Pizza. Three Flavors: Regular (with tomato sauce), White Truffle Oil, and of course… Buffalo Chicken.
See the recipe here.