Le Food Snob

Updated 8.11.2019.

Here’s what I said about this dish back in 2010:

The other night we had another refrigerator scare and I began pulling half thawed items out of our freezer. One of those items was a package of two boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Since I had a brick of white cheddar in the fridge from my last attempt at mac and cheese, I decided a chicken mac recipe was in order. When researching recipes for this dish, I had in mind Zach’s Three Cheese Chicken Mac (I found this almost recipe as I was writing this post; after I had already made my chicken mac dish. Guess I’ll have to try this recipe another time!) from The Chancery. When I was a bartender there, it was one of my favorite meals.

My recipe was supposed to be drawn from these two recipes: Guy Fieri’s Mac Daddy Mac n’Cheese and Rachael Ray’s Fancy Mac ‘n Cheese with Garlic Butter Breadcrumbs.

This was what I thought the perfect recipe would be:

ingredients.

  • Salt
  • 1 lb Cellentani noodles (a la The Chancery)
  • 6 T. butter, divided
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ¾ c. Panko breadcrumbs (Italian flavor)
  • generous handful of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 3 T. flour
  • 3 c. whole milk
  • Pepper
  • 4 pieces bacon, diced, cooked, reserving 1 tablespoon bacon fat
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (one whole breast split in half), cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 c. shredded jack cheese
  • 2 c. shredded white cheddar cheese
  • 1 c. mixed blend of cheddar cheeses

directions.

  1. Heat oven to 375°F. Set a pot of water on the stove on high heat and add salt.
  2. In a saucepot, melt 3 tablespoons butter. Grate garlic directly into the butter or mince garlic and mash into paste with a little salt before adding to the pot. Stir garlic in butter a minute then pour into small bowl. Add breadcrumbs and work the garlic butter through breadcrumbs with your fingertips. Combine with Parm cheese and set aside.
  3. In a large saute pan, reheat reserved bacon fat over medium heat. Add chicken cubes and sear. Do not cook through. Set aside.
  4. Cook noodles in boiling water according to directions so that the pasta comes out al dente.
  5. Return butter pot to stove and melt remaining 3 tablespoons butter. Whisk in flour, let cook 1 minute then whisk in milk. Bring to a bubble then let thicken so it coats the back of a spoon, 8-10 minutes. Season the sauce with salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste. With a wooden spoon, stir cheeses (except for the cheddar mix) into the sauce in a figure-8 motion.
  6. Toss sauce with drained macaroni and transfer to a baking dish or individual dishes. Top macaroni and cheese with breadcrumbs, cheddar cheese mix, and bacon and bake 30 minutes or so until brown and bubbly.

Below are the ingredients actually used in the dish I served my father for dinner at 10 p.m. tonight:

  • Salt
  • 1 lb Cellentani noodles (a la The Chancery)
  • 6 T. butter, divided
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ¾ c. Panko breadcrumbs (Italian flavor)
  • generous handful of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 3 T. flour
  • 2 ½ c. 1% milk (that’s all I had)
  • ½ c. vanilla flavored soy milk (see above; ran out of 1% milk)
  • Pepper
  • 4 pieces bacon, diced, cooked, reserving 1 tablespoon bacon fat
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (one whole breast split in half), cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 c. shredded jack cheese
  • 1 c. shredded mild cheddar cheese
  • 3 c. shredded white cheddar cheese
  • 9 slices American cheese cut into strips
  • ½ Velveeta cheese loaf, cubed
  • 1 c. mixed blend of cheddar cheeses

Now, I know what you’re thinking after you read what I put into my dish. That’s a lot of cheese! Admittedly, it is a lot of cheese. (And what’s my food mantra? There’s no such thing as too much butter or cheese.) Everyone knows I love cheese, but you should know I did not intend to put that much cheese into the dish. I needed to!

I set out to follow the first recipe, and everything was coming along swimmingly until I reached the point where I was to add the milk. As you can see, I ran out of milk. No bother, I thought. So the cheese sauce will come out a bit thicker. No big deal.

Unfortunately after I had added the cheese to the pot, I deemed the sauce too thick. Having nothing but vanilla flavored soy milk in the fridge, I decided to add half a cup. Before I did so, I asked my dad if he thought you’d be able to taste the vanilla. He replied, Probably not with all that cheese.

Well, he was wrong. After I added the soy milk, I tasted the sauce and could very distinctly taste sweet vanilla. With my dad’s words in mind, I began dumping extra cheese into the dish to counteract the vanilla taste. First I added approximately one cup of mild cheddar cheese. The mild cheddar cheese did not do the trick. That’s when I decided to add American cheese. (Not only was the sauce too sweet, I also thought it needed to be creamier. The cheddar cheese had made the sauce too grainy for my taste.) Well before I knew it, I had added nine slices of American cheese and the remaining hunk of Velveeta that was in the fridge. (I was trying desperately to get a smooth, creamy sauce. By the end it was almost creamy enough for me.)

In the end, my dad was right. All that cheese did mask the vanilla flavor. My dad has no idea how much cheese I added to the dish. I dare not tell him! He wouldn’t take another bite. (There was so much cheese in the dish, I’m afraid he and I will be fighting each other for the bathroom later this evening.) As you might expect … with so much cheese in the dish, it turned out delicious!

I’ve learned a lot since I started this blog 9 years ago. I’ve learned a lot about how to save cooking and baking disasters. I’ve learned to improvise. I’ve learned I like foods I never thought I did (Brussels sprouts, cabbage). I’ve learned to use cocoa powder instead of flour when greasing and flouring a pan when making chocolate cake. I’ve learned what makes for a creamy mac and cheese recipe (al dente noodles + more sauce than you think you’d need before putting it in the oven for finishing). I’ve learned not to use fresh eggs when making hard boiled eggs. I’ve learned to finesse the dipping of ladyfingers in a tiramisu recipe. I’ve learned when to use shortcuts and when to make things from scratch. I’ve learned to appreciate salads.

In remaking this dish in 2019, I hit the jackpot with the random tweaking I did to the original recipe I created by cutting down from four different cheeses to two and using precooked, breaded chicken instead of grilled, baked or poached. My dad, who was lucky enough to be here to try the updated version of this recipe, crowned the dish restaurant-worthy.

ingredients.

  • Salt
  • 1 lb Cellentani noodles (a la The Chancery)
  • 6 T. butter, divided
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • ¾ c. Panko breadcrumbs (Italian flavor)
  • generous handful of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 3 T. flour
  • 4 c. whole milk
  • Pepper
  • 8 pieces bacon, diced, cooked, reserving 1 tablespoon bacon fat
  • 1 lb breaded chicken cooked and cut into bite-sized pieces (I used some Tyson chicken strips I found at Costco)
  • 5.2 oz (1 puck) Boursin garlic and herb spreadable cheese
  • 4 c. cheddar cheese + 1 or 2 additional cups for baking

directions.

  1. Heat oven to 375°F. Set a pot of water on the stove on high heat and add salt.
  2. In a saucepot, melt 3 tablespoons butter. Stir minced garlic in butter for a minute or so and then pour into a small bowl. Add breadcrumbs and work the garlic butter through breadcrumbs with your fingertips. Combine with Parmesan cheese and set aside.
  3. Cook noodles in a large pot of boiling water according to directions so that the pasta comes out al dente. Drain and reserve.
  4. Meanwhile, make sauce. In a medium-sized sauce pan, over medium low heat melt remaining 3 tablespoons of butter. Whisk in flour and let cook for 1 minute; then slowly whisk in the milk. Crank up the heat to medium and allow the milk mixture to heat up. Stir in your puck of cheese and four cups of shredded cheddar cheese until cheese has melted. Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper as needed.
  5. Toss the sauce with macaroni, ¾ of the bacon and ¾ of the chicken and transfer to a greased baking dish or individual dishes. Top with cheese, breadcrumbs, remaining bacon and remaining chicken. Bake 15 to 25 minutes or so until brown and bubbly. Let cool slightly before serving.

Recipe rating: 

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