In the famous words of Jessica Simpson, “I’m sorry. I don’t eat buffalo.” Well Jess, I don’t either. It’s a tad gamey for my taste. But buffalo chicken? Wings drenched in a spicy, smoky, unnaturally orange sauce? Bring ’em on by the plateful. Give me a cold beer, some celery and a side of blue cheese dressing and you’ll see one happy (and very messy) gal.
Trouble is, buffalo wings alone do not a meal make, no matter how much I wish they would. They’re especially not a meal for the family, and completely wrong for a toddler who thinks bones are for chewing and sticking up one’s nose. Luckily, word on the street is that folk are combining this spicy treat with another comfort food of fattening proportions: mac n cheese. Now that is a meal I can get behind. Buffalo chicken + mac n cheese = dinner.
Honestly, when I first spied this recipe from Food Network, I thought it might be a tad overkill. Homemade mac n cheese all on its own can sometimes be too rich for my blood*. So when attempting my own version, I decided to lighten it up a tad by using whole milk instead of half-and-half, reduced fat cheddar, and light sour cream.
*Raise your hand if you laughed and called me a hypocrite right there. After all, I am the one who makes bacon cinnamon rolls. My blood is probably half butter by now.
The result was still incredibly rich, but I didn’t feel so bad about its creamy noodles passing my lips, or the lips of my family. I also tweaked a few other small details: I omitted the panko (because I don’t believe in crunchy mac toppings), decreased the butter, and left out the parsley and garlic (because, quite honestly, I was being lazy).
Creamy cheese sauce, shredded chicken spiked with buffalo sauce, crunchy bits of celery, and a layer of blue cheese. Serve with some celery sticks or a salad topped with blue cheese dressing and your family will be doing an interpretive dance in your honor.
I’ll stop talking now. You’ve got to go. You must get to the grocery to snatch up the ingredients for this (slightly) sinful dish.
And Jessica Simp, I think you’d make an exception for this buffalo. But a quick FYI: it’s buffalo chicken mac n cheese. Not buffalo chicken of the sea. But I’m sure you already knew that.
Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese, Slightly Lightened adapted from the Food Network
If you love the spice of buffalo sauce, feel free to add a bit more! If you can’t multitask (I can’t), and your macaroni gets stuck together while waiting in the colander, run warm water over it to un-stick before using.
- 1 lb elbow macaroni
- 4 tbsp butter
- 1 small onion, diced
- 2-3 stalks celery, diced
- 3 cups shredded cooked chicken (I bought a grocery store rotisserie bird to use)
- 3/4 cup buffalo sauce (Frank’s is a widely available and tasty brand—look for it on the condiment aisle)
- 2 tbsp flour
- 2 tsp dry mustard
- 2 1/2 cups milk (whole or 2%—nonfat might make the sauce too runny)
- 1 lb reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese, cut into 1/2? cubes
- 8 oz pepper jack cheese (reduced fat if you can find it), shredded
- 2/3 cup light sour cream
- 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
1. Preheat your oven to 350F. Grease or spray a 9×13? baking dish. Boil the macaroni in a large pot of salted water just until al dente, about 6-7 minutes or according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
2. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet or pot over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and cook until tender, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chicken and add 1/2 cup of the buffalo sauce. Cook 1 minute more then remove from heat.
3. In another pan, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour and mustard until smooth. Whisk in the milk and remaining 1/4 cup buffalo sauce and stir until thickened, about 3 minutes. Whisk in the cheddar and pepper jack cheeses until melted, then stir in the sour cream until smooth.
4. Spread half of the pasta into the bottom of the baking dish, top with the chicken mixture, then top with the remaining pasta. Pour the cheese sauce over as evenly as possible (a large ladle works nicely). Sprinkle with the blue cheese and set the entire baking dish on top of a cookie sheet before placing in the oven (the sauce may bubble and dribble out the sides of the pan). Bake until bubbly and slightly browned on top, about 30-35 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before inhaling.