I’ve been feeling a little sorry for my husband lately. I used to come home and make unique dinners from scratch every night. I still love to do that, but since the New Year I’ve put myself on a strict diet which really limits my food options, and by proxy, his.
The primary reason for the diet is our upcoming vacation. We are off to Cancun next month! My brother in law is getting married and they are having their destination wedding at an all inclusive resort. Since we have to travel so far to get there, we decided to actually make an extended vacation out of the trip, staying for 5 nights.
Unfortunately, that means tank tops, dresses, and (gulp)…bathing suits. Post-XMAS Erin just isn’t ready for that, thus, the need for the diet.
While it may be selfish of me, it is hard to make myself boring diet food, and then whip up some delicious and flavorful meal just for Jeff. Therefore, during this phase he has been eating a lot of frozen pizzas and basically whatever he can scrounge together from our fridge and pantry.
In my effort to make amends, I decided to make him a big pan of Mac and Cheese to last him for a few days. Jeff has a special place in his heart for mac, but of course, I couldn’t just make him plain mac and cheese (although it’s probably what he’d prefer…). I had to jazz it up, somehow!
While scanning Pinterest one day (if you don’t know what Pinterest is, you are MISSING OUT ), I came across a photo of “Jalapeno Popper Buffalo Chicken Mac” posted from another food blog, Lauren’s Latest. That recipe was the inspiration for what I ultimately put together for Jeff, to save him from my diet.
Start with the bacon. Mmmmmm bacon. Cook 3 pieces in a small skillet until you have produced crispy bacon. Transfer your bacon do a paper-towel lined plate. Reserve the bacon grease. Over medium heat, add garlic to the skillet and allow to cook for about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add the chopped onions and jalapenos and cook until soft, about 5-7 minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside for future use.
Meanwhile, boil your water for your mac and grease your pan. Since I was making this batch for one person, I opted for an 8×8 pan, however everything could easily be doubled. Cook your pasta until al dente, and drain.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
In a large skillet or pot, start your roux, which is essentially a thickening agent for your future cheese sauce. Over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in skillet, add 2 tablespoons of flour and whisk until the flour is cooked, about 1 to 2 minutes. Then whisk in your wet ingredients – the milk and cream. Flavor the base with salt, pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg.
Increase your heat to medium-high and continue to stir your base until the mixture thickens and just starts bubble. Remove from the heat.
Off the heat, add hot sauce (amount to your liking), cream cheese, mozzarella, cheddar, and provolone. Whisk until the cheese is melted and blended into the sauce.
Pour the mac and cheese into the cheese sauce and add the reserved bacon/jalapeno mixture and the shredded chicken. Stir to combine and then add the entire mixture to your prepared baking dish. Top the mac with about a cup of the shredded cheddar and 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella.
For the pièce de résistance, take your previously cooked bacon and crumble it over the top of the dish.
NOTE: While I usually subscribe to the “toasty bread crumbs on top of mac is essential” philosophy, Jeff just does not agree. It’s really quite tragic, but since this dish was created for him, I feel that I have to abide by his flawed wishes.
Bake the mac for about 30 minutes, until the cheese is melted and starting to brown on top. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.
And for those who are wondering, I did sneak a teeny, tiny bite once this was all said and done. I had to test it to make sure it wasn’t poisoned for the rest of you! You’re welcome.
- 3 slices of bacon
- 1 to 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/2 medium onion, diced
- 2 jalapenos, seed and ribs removed, diced
- 1/2 pound of elbow macaroni
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup of 2 % or whole milk
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- Salt and Pepper
- 1 tablespoon of cream cheese
- Hot sauce (I used Frank’s Red Hot)
- 2 cups of grated cheddar cheese, plus a cup for topping
- 1/2 cup mozzarella, plus 1/2 cup for topping
- 1/2 cup grated provolone
- 1 pre-cooked chicken breast, shredded
- Parsley, for garnish
Inspired by Lauren’s Latest, “Jalapeno Popper Buffalo Chicken Macaroni and Cheese”