I've never met a mac and cheese I didn't like ( on a cheat day of course ) . But the recipe I'd been craving most of all was one that, up until recently, only lived in my imagination: buffalo chicken macaroni and cheese. Fantasy...meet reality. Al Dente elbows of pasta coated in a creamy, sharp cheese sauce topped with celery, hot sauce, crispy chicken and bleu cheese crumbles. The epitome of indulgence I know but once a week with a healthy workout and clean diet will actually help you burn fat by shocking your system and probably keep you sane at the same time. And might I with all these basketball games...this is a party pleaser for the boys.
2 cups unseasoned breadcrumbs
1-1/2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
1-1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
Freshly ground black pepper
3 large eggs
1 pound chicken cutlets
6 tablespoons canola oil, plus more as needed
1 pound elbow macaroni
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, divided
3 cups chopped onions
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup all purpose flour
4 cups whole milk
1 cup grated jack cheese
1 cup grated extra sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup creamy and crumbly blue cheese (recommended: Maytag Blue), crumbled, plus more for garnish, if desired
2 teaspoons paprika
1 cup Frank's RedHot Original or other hot pepper sauce
1 stalk celery, finely diced
1. In a medium bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, salt, cumin, cayenne, and pepper. Beat eggs in a shallow bowl. Coat chicken pieces with the breadcrumbs, dip in the eggs, then coat again with the breadcrumbs; place on a plate. Repeat with the remaining chicken.
2. In a large, heavy skillet, heat 1/4 cup canola oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add two of the chicken tenders and cook, turning once, until golden, about 3 minutes. Repeat with the remaining chicken, adding more oil if necessary. Using a slotted spoon, transfer cooked chicken to paper towels to drain. Cut into 1-inch pieces; set aside.
3. Cook macaroni in a large pot of boiling salted water until pasta is tender but not quite cooked through, about 6 minutes. Drain; transfer to very large bowl.
4. Melt 6 tablespoons butter in same large pot over medium heat. Add chopped onions and garlic. Cover; sauté until onions are soft but not brown, stirring often, about 6 minutes. Add flour; stir 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in milk. Bring to boil, whisking frequently. Reduce heat and simmer sauce 2 minutes. Add all cheeses, paprika, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Whisk until cheeses melt and sauce is smooth, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Season to taste with more salt and pepper, if needed. Mix cheese sauce into macaroni. Mix in half the chicken pieces. Mound mixture in 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish.
5. Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake macaroni uncovered until heated through, about 25 minutes.
6. Meanwhile, stir hot pepper sauce and remaining 2 tablespoons butter in small saucepan over medium heat until butter melts.
7. Remove macaroni from oven and top with remaining chicken pieces, then spoon 4 tablespoons of hot pepper and butter sauce over macaroni. Bake for 5-7 more minutes.
8. Sprinkle top of macaroni with finely diced celery and more blue cheese crumbles; serve immediately, passing around extra hot pepper sauce.