Monday, June 29, 2015

Frankenchickaroni: Buffalo Wing Mac and Cheese

SCOTUS June 25
Still feeling the love at the steps of the Supreme Court

Cooking: Today is Buffalo Wing Mac and Cheese; tomorrow is Maybe Like Bonefish Grill Crab Fried Rice.  Both of these are coming  from my head, the same head that has mental confusion, brain fog, and forgetfulness.  Good luck to me.

Decisions - and the winner is the Buffalo Wing Glaze

I needed to make a side dish to go with the lamb chops, meatloaf, and tamale pie.  I developed a craving for macaroni and cheese, but at the same time it was bothering me that I did not have a chicken dish to balance the heavier meats.  

Lotsa lotsa cheese

What I came up with was this Frankenchickaroni of a dish that I like a lot.  I would eat more of it if I could, but you know how that goes with my fabulous digestive system, so I'll just have to take the wish for the deed.

The sauce component is both lush and fluffy, the result of stirring ricotta, feta, and sour cream into the cooked macaroni before pouring on a bechamel-based five-cheese sauce.

Trust me

Frankenchickaroni: Buffalo Wing Mac and Cheese

1 - 16 oz. box Mueller's Large Elbows macaroni

1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 quart (4 cups) whole milk

Kosher salt
ground black pepper
a pinch of cayenne
a pinch of nutmeg
a few drops of Tabasco
one shot of Worcestershire sauce

1 cup each of shredded cheese:
sharp cheddar
pepper jack
Velveeta (Yes, Velveeta)
Swiss cheese

1 - 15 oz. container whole milk ricotta
1 - 4 oz. container Athenos crumbled feta cheese
1 cup (1/2 pint) sour cream

1 - 24 oz. bag Banquet frozen popcorn chicken
1 bottle Sweet Baby Ray's Buffalo Wing Sauce and Glaze
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar

2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups French's French Fried Onions (Yes, yes, YES, French fried onions in a can. Trust me.)

Cooking the elbow macaroni according to package directions, drain and rinse briefly with cool water.  Drain again.  In a large bowl, combine the cooked macaroni with the ricotta, feta, and sour cream. Set aside and prepare the cheese sauce.

In a medium pot over medium high heat, add the stick of butter and when melted, add the flour.  Whisk these together until a smooth roux forms and continue cooking until the "raw" flour smell is gone, about 2 minutes.  Continue whisking as you pour in the milk.  The white sauce (bechamel) will not thicken until it is fully heated, so keep whisking over medium to medium high heat.  Once the sauce has thickened, season it with the salt, pepper, cayenne, nutmeg, Tabasco and Worcestershire.  Now remove from the heat, and stir in the five cups of shredded cheese.  Whisk until the cheese is completely melted and the sauce is smooth.  Pour the sauce over the cooked macaroni.

Now prepare the popcorn chicken: in a 9 x 13 aluminum baking dish that has been no-stick sprayed, put about half a bag of the popcorn chicken to fill the bottom of the pan, not more than one layer.  Cook according to package directions.  Remove the pan from the oven, and change the cook setting to broil.  Pour enough of the wing sauce over the chicken to coat each piece.  Place under the broiler for a few minutes, then turn each piece over and broil the other side.  Remove the baking dish from the oven and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Put the 2 tablespoons of butter into a 9 x 13 inch aluminum baking dish and place in the oven to melt the butter.  Pour off the melted butter and set aside. Pour half of the macaroni and cheese sauce into the prepared baking dish.  Arrange the glazed popcorn chicken in a single layer over the macaroni. Top with the remaining cup of cheddar. Pour the remaining macaroni and cheese over the chicken.

Top the dish with the French friend onions. Carefully pour the melted butter over the onions  Place in the oven and bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until the dish is warmed all the way through and the French fried onions are light brown and crispy.  Check the onions after 15 minutes; if they are getting brown too quickly, lay a piece of foil over the top to prevent them from burning.

This is best right out of the oven.  No matter when you eat it, it is incredibly rich and creamy and awesome and cheesy.  The buffalo-glazed popcorn chicken is a neat little bite of heat in the middle of all that richness.  And the French fried onions are much better than bread crumbs. Really, truly.

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