A couple of years ago, I made buffalo chicken mac and cheese for a good friend of mine and we almost ate the entire pan in one sitting. He asked if I would make it again and I agreed, but I wanted to change it a little bit. Last time I shredded the chicken and added a ton of hot sauce. This time around, I wanted to add chunks of chicken while keeping the “buffalo” flavor. I’ve never brined chicken before, so here was my chance! I brined the chicken in hot sauce, then chopped it into small pieces and tossed that will more hot sauce. My theory was to pack as much buffalo flavor into the chicken without overpowering the mac and cheese.
I was a success! The buffalo chicken mac and cheese had all of the flavor you would want from buffalo wings and all of the creaminess you would want in your mac and cheese. The provolone also added the sharpness you would get from the ranch and/or blue cheese sauce that’s used for dipping. I personally like to add the blue cheese to the panko topping, because I’m a believer that there’s no such thing as too much cheese. Well, maybe on pizza. My friend loved it, as well as his nephew, and his dad. I was planning to take leftovers back home, but there wasn’t any left!
Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese
for the buffalo chicken:
- 1 quart water
- ½ cup hot sauce (I used Frank’s, divided)
- ¼ cup salt
- ¼ cup sugar
- 3 boneless (skinless chicken breasts)
- ¼ cup hot sauce (I used Frank’s)
- canola oil (for sautéing)
for the macaroni
- ½ (8opound small elbow macaroni
- ½ cup chopped green onions (about 4)
- 1 ½ tablespoons butter
- ½ cups chopped onions
- 1 cloves large garlic (chopped)
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 4 oz provolone cheese (about 2 cups, coarsely grated)
- ½ teaspoons paprika
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
blue cheese topping
- ½ cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
- ¼ cup crumbled blue cheese (optional)
- 1 tablespoons butter
make the buffalo chicken:
Combine ¼ cup hot sauce, salt, and sugar in large Ziploc bag and shake until salt and sugar have dissolved. And water and chicken and shake until all have combined. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to 1 hour. In a large skillet, heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil. Add chicken and Sautee until golden brown and cooked until the chicken has reached an internal temperature of 165°F, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from pan and place on a cutting board. Chop the chicken breast into small pieces, about ½ inch. In a medium bowl, toss chicken pieces with ¼ cup of hot sauce. Set aside.
make the macaroni:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Cook macaroni in large pot of boiling salted water until just al dente (about 7 minutes). Drain; transfer to very large bowl. Melt butter in same large pot over medium heat. Add both onions and garlic. Sauté until onions are transparent and soft stirring often, about 6 minutes. Add flour; stir 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in milk. Bring to boil, whisking constantly. Reduce heat and simmer sauce 2 minutes. Add cheddar and provolone cheese, paprika, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Whisk until cheeses melt and sauce is smooth, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Season to taste with more salt and pepper, if desired. Mix cheese sauce into macaroni. Stir in chicken pieces. Mound mixture in 9 x 9-inch baking dish. In a small microwave safe bowl melt butter and cheese in the microwave at 30 -second increments until the cheese is melted. Stir to combine between intervals. Add panko combining thoroughly. Sprinkle blue cheese topping on top of macaroni and cheese. Bake macaroni uncovered until heated through and the panko is golden brown, about 30 – 35 minutes.