Baked Macaroni and Cheese
This is a favorite quick recipe I got from Rachel Ray's 30 minute meals on the food network. I found it on the food.com site, so I'll link it here, but don't let that stop you from following along with my pictures below.
- 2 tablespoons EVOO
- 1 lb chicken breast tenders
- salt and pepper
- 1 small onion
- 2 1/2 cups raw broccoli florets - got these in the bagged salad section at the store
- 1 lb macaroni elbows (Rachel says you can also use corkscrew pasta twists)
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 3 cups whole milk
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 3 cups yellow sharp Cheddar
- 1 tablespoon prepared Dijon mustard
I prepare my ingredients:
- Chop chicken
- Chop onion
- Measure separately, cheese, milk, stock, butter
- Combine flour, cayenne, and paprika
- My cheddar is pre-shredded, and my broccoli is pre-washed and pre-cut
Sorry Aries, you're on a diet and I can only sneak you skim milk...
At this point I'm going to share a habit I learned from Alton Brown. I have a separate cutting board for chicken and other poultry. It has chicken sharpie'd on it so no one mixes that up. I also use a separate knife for cutting chicken, and when finished, I immediately wash anything that touched the chicken with soap and hot water.
Cross contaminations are scary.
Get a big pot of water for the pasta started on its way to boil.
EVOO into a medium pan heated at medium to medium high heat.
Add your chicken to the pan. And season with salt and pepper.
After a couple minutes, add your onion.
In 5 to 7 minutes, the chicken should be cooked through, and the onions tender. Set aside the cooked chicken and onions, we'll be back for them in a few.
When your water is boiling, add a little salt and the pasta. Set a timer for 5 minutes on that.
Heat a medium sauce pot over medium heat. Add the butter and melt.
Add your dry ingredients, the flour, cayenne, and paprika.
Whisk this together until it bubbles then let it cook a minute more. It's going to look a little strange.
Now in my cooking process, a few things have converged at this moment. About the time I saw bubbles form in my sauce pot, my timer on the pasta went off. At this point you need to add the broccoli florets to the pasta.
Reset your timer for 3 minutes and let the broccoli cook while the pasta is cooked to al dente.
Back to the sauce pot, whisk in your milk and stock and raise the heat to bring to a quick boil.
Now this is very important.
You need to watch the sauce pot on the stovetop. The moment you turn your back on it, it will boil over. Don't do what I did here, which was turn my back on it to drain my pasta and broccoli before my sauce pot reached its boil.
When I came back to the stove...
What I should have done was take the pasta off its burner, left it, and waited for my sauce pot to start its boil. Just as soon as it starts, lower the heat to just keep it barely boiling. Simmer then for 5 minutes. A thin skin will form on the surface of the sauce.
After cleaning up, return your drained pasta and broccoli to your pot, and add the chicken and onions mixture.
After simmering, add the shredded cheddar to the pot and stir to melt it in.
Stir in the tablespoon of mustard and season with salt and pepper.
Now pour cheese sauce into pot with other ingredients, and stir to combine.
Dish yourself a bowl and grab some good fresh bread to go along with it.
This recipe yields a good amount of food, so have some friends or family join you for dinner, or be prepared for leftovers.