Recipe 71: Italian-Style Mac and Cheese with Chicken Sausage

I know the blog hasn’t been busy, but rest assured, I’ve been busy collecting recipes to try.  This one comes courtesy of an ad for Carnation Evaporated Milk.

 

Italian-Style Mac and Cheese with Chicken Sausage – from Nestle

Ingredients

2 cups (8oz) dry elbow macaroni

1 can evaporated milk

2 cups (8 oz package) shredded Italian-style or 4- or 5-cheese blend

2 links fully cooked Italian-seasoned chicken sausage cut into 1/4″ slices

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half

2 Tablespoons finely sliced fresh basil leaves

Directions

Prepare pasta according to package directions.  Meanwhile, combine evaporated milk, cheese, sausage, garlic powder, and black pepper in a medium saucepan.  Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until cheese is melted.  Remove from heat.  Add drained pasta to cheese sauce; stir until combined.  Add tomatoes and basil; stir gently until mixed in.  Makes six servings, one cup each.

Verdict: 4/5 – Oh man.  Yum.  As you can see, I neglected to snap a picture of this one.  The real reason is I just forgot, but another believable reason would be that I glommed this down so quickly that I didn’t have time.  My one complaint is that the sauce was a little soupy, but the flavor was spot on.


Recipe 7: Buffalo Chicken Macaroni and Cheese

Confession time, people: I have totally been holding out on you.  The truth is I have a recipe I’ve been making for a little while now that is one of my faves.  In fact, it’s the standard by which my husband has been using for all new mac and cheese recipes I’ve been making.  I don’t know that I go quite that far, but it is definitely top of the list for me – so far, at least.

As you can tell by the title, this recipe is inspired by buffalo chicken wings.  My reason for holding out on you this far is it seemed to me this would be a perfect recipe to share at a Superbowl shindig.  My friends and I are definitely not sports people (Loverman’s favorite sport is Warhammer 40K and mine is equally fictional) – but we enjoy the commercials almost as much as we enjoy any excuse to get together and eat delicious food.

Finding this recipe was sort of a fluke for me.  Some time ago I was tempted to buy a Food Network Magazine because I was intrigued by its promise of 50 different egg recipes (it was near Easter, and I love me some deviled eggs) – and the issue I got just happened to also have five mac and cheese recipes.  This one stood out from the others: a Buffalo chicken wing mac and cheese!  I love me some wings – though I generally prefer flavors other than Buffalo since I tend to be a wuss about spiciness.  Loverman, however, declares that he worships at the temple of spicy, and since moving in together I don’t think there has been a time we haven’t had a bottle of Frank’s Red Hot in the apartment.

This actually led to one of the most amusing and most practical Xmas presents he ever received: Two years ago my sister was pregnant and due around the holiday season.  Even if she delivered on her due date, she knew she would be wrapped up in newborn care to do much for the holidays, so not only did she take care of her holiday shopping way early, but she let us know ahead of time that she was going “low-key” on gifts.  Loverman’s gift?  A gallon of Red Hot.  Nonplussed, he stated it was the most unusual gift he’d received – but at the same time, something he knew he would definitely use.

This plus a mostly-full bottle is still left.

Anyway, this recipe calls specifically for Frank’s Red Hot, lending it a fiery kick.  I’m sure you could use a different hot sauce or even get away with using a bit less than called for – but even I, with my hesitance to ingest anything to spicy, find this to have just a pleasant burn rather than a raging inferno on the tongue.

Buffalo Chicken Macaroni and Cheese (from Food Network Magazine)

Ingredients

  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the dish (divided as indicated in recipe)
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni (I used quinoa elbows)
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped (I actually leave this out because I hate celery.  If you like it, keep it)
  • 3 cups shredded rotisserie chicken (I use a whole rotisserie chicken)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup hot sauce (preferably Frank’s) (divided as indicated below)
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (I used Pamela’s)
  • 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) (you should really shred it instead – I have done it both ways, and it works much better shredded)
  • 8 ounces pepper jack cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup panko (gluten free for me)
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese (or, if you’re like me and love blue cheese, even more)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Directions

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. (the hot sauce smell will tickle your nose – but in a good way)

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 (again, both should be shredded despite what the recipe says; it goes so much quicker this way), then whisk in the sour cream until smooth. (with the hot sauce this has a slightly rosy color)

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 (I use way more blue cheese). Sprinkle over the macaroni and bake until bubbly, 30 to 40 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

Verdict: 4.5/5

Like I said above, this is Loverman’s favorite so far.  Even the ones that I feel have been “wins,” he has responded with “it’s no chicken wing mac.”  Although it is spicy, it is not insanely so.  If you like spice more than I do, you could probably up the hot sauce or even add some hot peppers in with the onions; and even though he enjoys the recipe, Loverman sometimes adds a splash of hot sauce on top.  As for me, I like it as is – minus the celery and with some more blue cheese on top.  The top is perfectly crunchy from the panko, plus the savory-tang of the blue on top helps to mitigate the heat from the hot sauce and pepper jack.

Yesterday I made the recipe all the way up to the baking, then put it in my friends’ oven, where we were having our “Superbowl as an excuse to eat well”-Party.  Here it is fresh out of the oven:

...on their cleaner-than-ours stovetop

Those who partook said they liked it, and by the time we left maybe 2/3 of it had been eaten.  I would say this is a suitable replacement for hot wings for a Big Game sort of event, but don’t limit yourself to that: It’s generally a crowd-pleaser, so serve it for your next big get-together!