Today is Buffalo Macaroni & Cheese Day – at least according to the folks at Parrano® cheese – and who can’t get behind that?! I wanted to share their signature Buffalo Mac & Cheese recipe. I haven’t yet made it – but it sounds pretty darned amazing!
Parrano® Buffalo Chicken & Crispy Skin Mac & Cheese
While it wouldn’t be too smart to put actual chicken wings in mac & cheese, I discovered it’s pretty easy to replicate the flavors found in the popular snack in a mac & cheese. The key is, of course, lots of hot sauce and the signature blue cheese. But wings are often crispy, so my answer to that is to top the casserole with crisped chicken skin. It’s easy to make and, because of its potato chip-‐like texture, totally addictive. After that, the dish is open to interpretation. But needless to say, this recipe has lots of cheese! If you have leftovers, this dish makes particularly good fried bites.
Chicken & Crispy Skin
2 pounds skin-on, boneless chicken breasts (about 4 halves; see Note)
2 Tbsp salted butter
5 Tbsp Frank’s RedHot Sauce or Frank’s RedHot Buffalo Wings Hot Sauce (or use your favorite brand)
1 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Mac & Cheese
2 Tbsp plus 2 tsp kosher salt
1 pound small shell pasta (or use small elbow macaroni)
4 Tbsp salted butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
4 cups whole or reduced-fat milk
2 cups heavy cream
24 oz. Parrano® cheese, coarsely grated (about 8 cups)
8 oz. Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled (about 1 ½ cups)
8 oz. cream cheese, cut into ½-inch pieces
¾ cup Frank’s RedHot sauce plus more for a super, fiery mac & cheese (or use your favorite brand)
1 tsp dry mustard powder
8 medium celery stalks, cut into ¼-inch dice (about 2 ½ cups)
¾ cup finely chopped fresh chives
For the Chicken
Carefully remove the skin on one piece.
Cut the meat into ½-inch pieces.
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is no longer pink.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a large bowl. Add the hot sauce and stir to combine.
Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel, but do not wash it.
For the Crispy Skin
Add the reserved chicken skin to the same skillet, and cook over medium-high heat until the undersides are golden brown, about 5 minutes.
Use a spatula to flatten the skin if it begins to curl. You want to get the skin as bubble-free and paper-thin as possible.
Turn and cook the other side until golden brown and very crisp, 5-7 minutes. Watch carefully, because it can burn easily.
Season with the salt and pepper to taste.
Place on a paper towel-lined plate, where the skin will continue to crisp as it cools.
When cool, break into bite-sized pieces. Set aside (NOTE: The crispy skin can be made up to 2 days ahead and stored in an airtight container).
Preheat the over to 375º.
Butter a 9×13 (3 quart) baking dish pan or pan (or twelve 8 oz. ramekins). Set aside
Make the Pasta
Fill a 6 to 8 quart pot about ¾ full with water and add 2 Tbsp of salt.
Bring to a boil and add the pasta.
Cook, stirring once or twice, until tender but firm, about 4 minutes, and drain.
Using the same pot that you used to cook the pasta, melt the butter over medium heat.
Slowly whisk in the flour and stir constantly until a paste forms, 30-45 seconds. Continue stirring for about 2 minutes more, or until the mixture starts to darken slightly and small a bit nutty.
Slowly whisk in the milk, cream and the remaining 2 tsp of salt and cook until the mixture starts to thicken and just beginning to bubble around the edges, 5-7 minutes. It should be thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.
Add 6 cups of the Gouda, the blue cheese, the cream cheese, the hot sauce and mustard powder.
Stir until the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth but not too runny. It should be similar in texture to cake batter. If it’s soupy, continue cooking until it thickens.
Add the pasta, chicken, celery, and chives and stir to combine.
Pour into the prepared baking dish.
Sprinkle the remaining Gouda on top and top with the crispy skin pieces.
Place the dish on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until bubbling and golden brown, about 30 minutes.
Let cool for 15-20 minutes before serving. Serve extra hot sauce alongside.
Some chicken breasts seem to have more skin than others. If yours don’t have much skin, but 1 or 2 more breasts, or even a whole chicken depending on how much you love crispy skin. Remove the skin, (ad admittedly trick task when it’s a whole chicken) and cook as directed above. Save the meat for another use.
Adapted from Entrees
Photos courtesy of Parrano
Photos courtesy of Parrano