Saturday, June 18, 2011

Southwest Mac & Cheese

Everyone loves mac & cheese, right? I wanted to make a meal out of this well-loved classic and make it a little more grown-up. This recipe is spicy, flavorful, and packs a lot of protein by adding chicken breast and black beans. If you'd rather go vegetarian, you can leave out the chicken and still get plenty of protein from the black beans and cheese. I would leave out the hot sauce if you're serving to kids and save it on the side for adults to add, if desired. I debated adding chopped spinach to the mix at well, but I didn't want to add so many things that it stopped looking like mac & cheese.

As far as wine pairing for the adults, my go-to wine for spicy dishes is a nice Riesling or Gew├╝rztraminer, which are both sweet German wines that work well to balance out the heat of this dish.

What you need:
14 oz elbow macaroni, cooked al dente
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 cups black beans (from can)
3 cups shredded chedder & monterray jack cheese blend, plus an additional 1/2 cup for topping
3 cups milk
4 oz neufchatel cheese
3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
3 tbsp hot sauce
2 tbsp dried cilantro
1 tbsp chili powder
2 tbsp paprika, divided
1 tbsp garlic powder
2 tsp cumin
1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce
1/2 cup onion
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup panko

What you do:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Make a rub with cilantro, chili powder, (1 tbsp) paprika, garlic powder, and cumin. Slice chicken breast into small bite-size pieces and season well with rub.
3. In a large saucepan, melt 2 tbsp butter and hot sauce over medium heat. Add chicken and stir frequently to cook evenly (until no longer pink). Set chicken aside.
4. In same saucepan with leftover butter, hot sauce & drippings from chicken, melt an additional tbsp of butter and allow saucepan to cool to medium-low heat.
5. Meanwhile, in a mini food processor, dice onion, garlic, and chipotle chili.
6. Add 2 tbsp flour to melted butter in saucepan and whisk constantly. Add onion, garlic, and chipotle and whisk again until a roux is formed.
7. Whisk in milk so it becomes well incorporated with roux and then allow to simmer for 5 minutes to thicken.
6. Once sauce is thickened, add cream cheese and whisk. Add shredded cheese and whisk until melted. Add macaroni and black beans and stir until coated.
7. Pour macaroni, black beans, and cheese into a large casserole dish. Top with chicken. Top with left over 1/2 cup of cheese. Sprinkle panko bread crumbs on and remaining tbsp of paprika.
8. Bake uncovered for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for several minutes before serving. Enjoy!

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