Pulled Chicken Mac & Cheese
Happy New Year everyone!!!! 2016!!
Seriously, 2016. It’s almost hard to believe.
2015 seemed to completely fly by, in the best of ways. If time flies when you’re having fun, then 2015 was soaring at light speed. Such an amazing year, full of adventure, travel, SO MUCH FOOD, and crazy exciting opportunities. And I, for one, could not be more excited to rocket launch into 2016. This year is going to be so unreal exciting.
The holidays have come and (almost) gone, and life seems to be getting back to ‘normal’. And now that all the turkey leftovers are gone, and the fridge is free from copious amounts of cake, it seems like a green smoothie and a kale salad diet might be a great idea. But….not quite yet.
Of all the comfort food in the world, I might just love mac & cheese best of all. Top 5 for sure.
When I lived in Nashville a few years ago, I was introduced to mac & cheese for the first time. Yes, I’d had that ‘from a box’ stuff, of course, but despite what I may have believed for most of my life, that was not a proper mac. When we first moved to town, my friend Reid suggested that my band and I hit up Jack’s BBQ on Broadway for some saucy goodness. Per his suggestion, I ordered the pulled pork and, on a whim, ordered the saucy, cheesy mac & cheese goodness keeping warm in the tray beside the pork & beef brisket.
It was heaven. Mind. Blown. I had no idea how unreal something so simple, so everyday could be. I HAD to learn how to make this. Serious business.
Mac & Cheese was one of the very first things I learned how to make in our small apartment in south Nashville. Then pulled pork, and brisket, and down the rabbit hole of southern cuisine Dennis went. Well worth the effort.
BBQ Pulled Chicken Mac & Cheese
2 chicken breasts
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons lemon zest
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons BBQ sauce
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 ½ cups whole milk
400 grams old cheddar cheese, shredded
2 cups Monterey jack, shredded
¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon cracked black pepper
500 grams pasta shells
1 tablespoons red chili flakes
½ cup green onions, finely sliced
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
First, prepare the chicken.
In a small dish, combine the lemon zest, spices, and salt. Cover the chicken with the olive oil, then top with spice blend, getting each breast well coated. Bake in a baking dish in the preheated oven for 35 – 40 minutes, until it easily shreds with 2 forks. Shred, and then toss with 3 tablespoons BBQ sauce. Set aside.
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil, and cook pasta according to package directions (al dente, please). Drain, and toss together with 1 tablespoon olive oil.
Heat a large saucepan over medium high heat, and melt 2 tablespoons of butter. When melted, whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute, until the roux is bubbling away. Add the minced garlic, and cook 30 seconds longer. Pour in the milk, and while constantly whisking, bring to a simmer. When the milk mixture has thickened (5 – 6 minutes), turn the heat to medium low, and whisk in the shredded cheddar cheese, 1 cup at a time until combined and smooth.
Combine the cheese sauce, pasta, shredded chicken, and green onions, and transfer to a dutch oven (or oven safe dish). Top with 2 cups shredded Monterey jack cheese and chili flakes, and bake for 12 – 15 minutes, until the cheese has melted and the tops of the pasta start to crisp.
Serve with fresh jalapeños, hot sauce, or both.