Chipotle Chicken Mac & Cheese

Originally published on culturebitch.com, May 12th, 2010

This winter I got really into making mac & cheese from scratch. I’ve tried a few different recipes from various cookbooks, and some are OK, some just mediocre, but the best one yet is in Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Cooking, upon which this recipe is based. One weekend as I was craving this dish, I happened on a cooking show where someone added chipotles into a cheese sauce…and voila, the idea for my Chipotle Chicken Mac & Cheese was born. I’ve tweaked it little by little until I found the perfect one-pot dish for a cold, rainy winter night. Oh, who am I kidding, really ANY night.

Ingredients:

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • canned chipotles in adobo (amount will depend how spicy you like it)
  • 3 T butter
  • 3 T flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 8 oz shredded cheese (I use a half/half combo of cheddar & either jack or fontina)
  • 1 box of pasta (a small shape, like cavatappi, elbows, or shells)
  • about a cup of frozen peas, defrosted
  • toasted breadcrumbs (optional)

Method:

Preheat oven to 350. Place chicken breasts on a small pan, drizzle with a little olive oil, salt & pepper. Roast for 15-20 minutes or until no longer pink inside. Shred or slice into bite-size pieces and set aside while you prepare the rest of the dish.*

Put a pot of water on to boil for the pasta.

Remove chilies from can, with some of the adobo sauce, and chop into fairly small pieces. I use 4-5, which makes a pretty spicy dish. Set these aside while you prepare the sauce.

In a large saucepan, melt butter over low heat. When foam subsides, add flour and whisk frequently for about 3 minutes; roux should bubble gently. Very slowly add in the milk, whisking constantly. Raise heat to medium and keep whisking until it begins to simmer and is the consistency of heavy cream. Reduce heat to low, switch to a wooden spoon and cook another 10 minutes or so, stirring frequently to make sure it’s not sticking to the pan.

While sauce is cooking, add pasta to boiling water and cook until al dente. Drain and reserve.

When sauce is ready, take off heat and add in cheese(s), stirring until everything melts together. Stir the chipotles into the sauce to combine thoroughly. Add in the chicken, peas, and pasta, and stir gently to coat evenly with the sauce.

Pour mixture into a buttered casserole or pyrex dish (about 13×9 size; or two smaller ones). Top with toasted breadcrumbs if desired, and bake in a preheated 400 oven for about 15-20 minutes until everything is bubbly.

Enjoy!

*My method for ensuring the chicken stays super-moist is to roast it on a foil-lined pan; once out of the oven I wrap up the foil loosely around it, and let it rest for about 10 minutes. Once it’s cooled enough to handle (but still warm), I shred or slice it, and put it back in the foil – which now has a fair amount of clear juices sitting in the bottom – and wrap it all back up to reabsorb the juices and stay warm while I finish the rest of the components. This works really well when making chicken for salads, too.

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