Monday, January 25, 2010

Superbowl Food: Buffalo Chicken Spicy Mac

I frequently drool over the food featured by Tina & Mike over at Choosy Beggars.  But, their last pub night, featuring Buffalo Wing Macaroni & Cheese, took both Peef and me over the edge, giving us a serious mac & cheese craving.  So, we decided to try the recipe out for ourselves.

Of course, we can't follow instructions like normal people.  So, the recipe we ended up with, while it remotely resembles the original, has been... well, let's just say interpreted.  For one thing, this mac & cheese dish is now gluten free is made with an alternative grain (we were misguided in our initial claim that this recipe is gluten free -- it's not, though spelt can be a safe bet for some individuals with a more mild gluten intolerance).  Neither of us suffer from a gluten allergy, but we like to change it up a bit when it comes to the grains/flours we eat. On this particular occasion, we happened to have some Vita-Spelt macaroni on hand. Vita-Spelt is a favorite of ours -- not only because the spelt elbows are virtually indistinguishable from wheaty macaroni -- but also because it's made in Michigan, so it's a regional product (which we always like). 

We chose to poach our chicken breasts (2 of them), cube them up, and toss them with hot sauce while they were still steaming hot. I've successfully used this technique before with baked chicken wings. The theory is that the "pores" of the hot chicken are open and receptive to the hot sauce. The pieces soak up all the flavors while you're busy doing other things. 
Meanwhile, we chopped up our vegetables -- onions, carrots, garlic, and celery.  We chopped the onions and carrots into a small dice, and minced the garlic.  However, we left the celery sliced in larger pieces so they'd stand out in the dish. 
Then, we gathered together our spices.  This was another area where we took some liberties. In addition to the prerequisite cayenne pepper, we decided cumin might add some nice flavor. And we also threw in a teaspoon of smoked sweet paprika, figuring that a little bit of smoke wouldn't hurt.  We mixed the spices with the (gluten free) flour that we planned to use to make our roux.
We put a pot of water on to boil for the pasta, and we prepared to sauté our veggies. We chose to tackle the  sautéing in stages -- first the onions, then the carrots, and finally the garlic and celery. The goal here was to completely cook the onion, get the carrots to a crisp-tender state, and cook the celery just slightly (so that it would still retain some crunch).  Cuz I'll be honest, chicken wings just wouldn't be chicken wings without the crunch of that celery.

When the pasta was finished cooking, we rinsed it with cool water to halt the cooking process, and tossed it into a bowl with the veggies.
Then, we moved along, melted some butter, and made a roux with the flour & spices.  I'm a big fan of cooking spices in oil to bring out their flavors -- so this was just one more opportunity to allow everything to come together in a big way.  When the butter, flour, and spices had bubbled away eagerly for a few minutes, we added the milk to make our bechemel.
Once the bechemel finished cooking, we stirred in the cheeses. We chose a Wisconsin made buffalo monterey jack cheese (for good, cheesy flavor and a bit of kick), some Neufchatel (for creaminess), and some Sartori Reserve Dolcina® Gorgonzola (for that bleu cheese flavor we love with our buffalo wings).  At this point, we tasted for seasonings, added a smidge of salt, and mixed everything together.

Then we poured the whole mess into a large greased baking dish.
After sprinkling some bread crumbs (from a piece of forgotten ciabbata) over the top, we realized that our gluten-free macaroni & cheese was no longer gluten-free... oops! You can tell we don't do this every day.  Fortunately for us, this dish would be just fine with a bit of parmesan sprinkled over the top instead of the bread crumbs. In fact, it might even be better.

After about 30 minutes, the bread crumbs weren't QUITE toasty, but the cheese around the edges was all bubbly and wonderful looking.  So, we declared it done!
Is it mac & cheese? or a fantastic superbowl dip? This pasta dish brings the best of many worlds crashing together in a wonderful way.
 
The kick from the cayenne and buffalo sauce was definitely evident, but not overwhelming. The celery was pleasantly crisp, and the sauce was ultra creamy, thanks to the addition of that Neufchatel.  Alright, alright. So, it's definitely not health food. But, it's some seriously good football food.  And I'd venture a guess it would more than satisfy anyone's cravings for a nice big bowl of buffalo wings.

"It's like a pasta version of that buffalo chicken dip that we used to make," Peef declared after scarfing down his bowl of leftovers.

I sipped my IPA and smiled. Cuz there's really nothing better than being warm and satisfied on a cold, rainy January evening.  And it's even better when the husband agrees.

Buffalo Chicken Spicy Mac


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29 comments:

  1. Gosh, this looks awesome!! I was so excited when you said that you would do a riff on this dish, and crikey - did you ever!!! I love the idea of adding cumin (wish I had thought of it, frankly) and the cheese factor....oh, the cheese factor. Girl, this just looks DANG good and has Superbowl written all over it!!!

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  2. Wow this looks fantastic! I adore buffalo chicken but haven't had it in way too long. I will definitely be making this.

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  3. This looks amazing... I know that this will make it into my rotation some time soon!

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  4. Oh wow Lo this is my kind of mac n cheese. Anything spicy and with cheese too, you know it has my vote!

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  5. This is definitely tailgating mac and cheese! We both had the same idea in term of genre last night - I love it! :) This may just be the dish I make for Superbowl Sunday - thank you SO Much!

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  6. Hmmmm....now I wouldn't want you to take this the wrong way, but the first thing that comes to mind when viewing all this deliciousness is a quote from Tommy Boy, when David Spade looks over at Chris Farley and deadpan's: "I can HEAR you getting fatter!". This is totally one thing I wouldn't change an ingredient in to make it lighter, and would in fact celebrate every single calorie as they happily make their way down to my very satisfied belly. Another one for the record books!

    Oh, and I must try VitaSpelt pasta, looks awesome and keeps it's shape - so important in mac&cheese!

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  7. ok, i have to find spelt pasta, i've discovered i love spelt in bread so why not

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  8. This mac & cheese sounds fabulous, fantastic flavors and perfect to serve on a superbowl night!

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  9. Oh, so you've kicked it up a notch? I like it. A lot.

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  10. Buffalo wings are my favorite party food and I love mac and cheese. This is a winner (even if the Jets aren't :-(). You look like you had a lot of fun tinkering with the recipe.

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  11. Oh it does look good even to the non football fans out here in blog world.

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  12. LOL -- would you guess that we're among the non football fans?? :) The super bowl is just a good excuse for us to eat all sorts of game food!!

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  13. We're rather disappointed that the Vikings lost so this dish may very well be the only reason we'll watch the Super Bowl. It makes a very good consolation prize! 8-)

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  14. This looks fantastic. Will have to try it out sometime soon!

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  15. Yumbo! Looks like something I could eat! :) Thanks for sharing. Alsways up for a new take on mac n cheese, especially when the original one gets abit over the top cheesy sometimes!

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  16. Hahahah I know what you mean about not being able to follow direction;-) That M&C definitely did not get lost in the translation though. Looks delish!

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  17. Wow! That dish looks soooo good. I'll have to get some of that spelt macaroni. It is nice to have found your blog. I love it. Thanks for visiting mine and come back often.

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  18. This looks delicious! thanks for sharing :)

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  19. OK, officially drooling! (And I just ate dinner...)

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  20. oh my goodness...why must you torture a pregnant lady!! now i must make this:)

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  21. This looks incredible!! Two favorites in one!

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  22. Hi, this recipe looks amazing. I am a huge fan of Vita Spelt products but wanted to give you a heads up in case anyone is planning on making this for someone with a gluten intolerance, spelt DOES have gluten in it. It is still okay for some people with gluten sensitivities but not everyone. Here's the link to their website with the gluten info:
    http://www.purityfoods.com/cooking_resources/what_is_spelt/celiac_concerns

    Someone once gave me a mnemonic to help remember what has gluten in it while I was experimenting with a gluten free diet: BROWS

    Barley
    Rye
    Oats (you can now get gluten free oats but they need to be labeled especially as such)
    Wheat
    Spelt
    Kamut

    Ok that Kamut doesn't fit but if you remember all the other ones just tack that on the end. Kamut is also a great grain if your experimenting, very nutty and just a little sweet.

    Thanks for all the great recipes!

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  23. Thanks for the information on spelt! (can you tell we're not completely GF in our house?) Good facts to have on hand!

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  24. YUM! This sounds seriously good and I'm thinking buffalo wings lovin' children would enjoy it, too. :)
    ~ingrid

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  25. Nothing wrong with not following instructions! I think you ended up with a wonderful dish. I'd love a few bites of it ;)

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  26. Wow you got me there when you said "spicy" in the title. :) Looks amazing! Definitely saving it.

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  27. Classic recipe! Sounds delicious! Thanks for sharing it. I will make it right now as can't wait more to taste it.

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  28. Hot wings and Mac and Cheese, what a great combination in one dish.

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