Every year, we go to my sister’s house for Halloween. The children go trick-or-treating while the grown-ups stay at home to answer the doorbell and hand out candy to the neighborhood kids. We always have something hot to drink, as well as a few Halloween-themed appetizers and desserts for our returning trick-or-treaters who are invariably cold and hungry. In addition, there’s always at least one main dish (usually some kind of casserole) for the adults.
This year, I made the casserole for the adults. I chose to do a Spanish-style Chicken Macaroni. We ate this a lot at my grandmother’s house growing up. It takes a little time to prepare and simmer the sauce, but is well-worth the wait. It’s delicious, filling, and warms you up from the inside out. Happy Halloween everyone!
- 1 lb. macaroni noodles
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 3 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 5 slices of bacon, chopped into small pieces
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 medium onion, diced
- 2 pcs. chorizo de Bilbao, sliced
- 1 8-oz. pkg. mushrooms, sliced
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 1 can diced tomatoes
- 2 15-oz. cans tomato sauce
- 1 bay leaf
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (or any cheese you like)
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- Boil macaroni according to package directions until al dente. Drain and set aside.
- Boil chicken in just enough water to cover until chicken is cooked through, then shred chicken into small pieces. Leave shredded chicken sitting in its broth until you’re ready to use it.
- In a large saucepot, sauté the chopped bacon until it begins to get crispy.
- Drain all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease.
- Add the garlic and onions to the pot and sauté until the onions begin to turn translucent.
- Add the chorizo, mushrooms and bell pepper and cook a little longer.
- Pour in the can of diced tomatoes and the tomato sauce.
- Toss in one bay leaf and season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste.
- Pour the chicken with the broth into the saucepot, lower the heat to low, and leave it to simmer uncovered for 45 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.
- When the sauce is ready, toss the cooked pasta into it, stirring until the sauce and pasta are well incorporated.
- Pour the pasta into a 9×13 rectangular baking dish.
- Top the pasta with the shredded cheddar.
- Sprinkle the grated parmesan over the cheddar.
- Bake at 350°F until the cheese is melted.
NOTE: As seen in the photo, I decided to top the casserole pictured with a Bechamel Sauce. After pouring the pasta into the baking dish, I topped it with a layer of bechamel, then the shredded cheddar and parmesan. Yum!
It’s National Customer Service Week this week and to celebrate, we had a floor-wide potluck at my office today. As I searched my pantry and fridge yesterday trying to decide what to make, I saw that I had all the ingredients needed to make some good old Mac ‘n Cheese. I remembered seeing a recipe for it in my new Cook’s Country TV Show Cookbook and as someone who loves nothing more than trying out new recipes, I couldn’t resist trying this one. The recipe was very good. It wasn’t what I would call a “grown-up” Mac ‘n Cheese, probably because it had American cheese in it, but it definitely was one that would appeal to kids of all ages. It certainly appealed to my kids. And it was wiped out pretty quick at the potluck.
Though Macaroni and Cheese is considered a classic American dish, it actually has its roots in Italy where some version of it was probably being made for as long as they’ve been making pasta. From its early days where noodles were tossed with butter and cheese to the version that we all know and love today, the dish went through many variations. In 1937, Kraft introduced the little blue box of dried pasta and powdered cheese that is beloved by virtually every American kid today. However and wherever its origins, Mac ‘n Cheese epitomizes the quintessential comfort food. Once you’ve mastered the basic recipe, you can jazz it up in myriad ways. You can vary the cheeses, from purely cheddar to a blend of gruyère, fontina or parmesan; you can add bacon, ham, even lobster! The possibilities are endless!
BEST POTLUCK MACARONI AND CHEESE
- 4 slices hearty white sandwich bread, torn into quarters
- 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted, plus 4 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 lb. elbow macaroni
- 5 tbsp. all-purpose flour
- 3 (12-oz.) cans evaporated milk
- 2 tsp. hot sauce
- 1 tsp. dry mustard
- 1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
- 8 ozs. extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (2 cups)
- 5 ozs. American cheese, shredded (1-1/4 cups)
- 3 ozs. Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (3/4 cup)
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Pulse bread, melted butter, and Parmesan in food processor until ground to coarse crumbs, about 8 pulses. Transfer to bowl.
- Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add macaroni and 1 tablespoon salt and cook, stirring often, until just al dente, about 6 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup macaroni cooking water, then drain and rinse macaroni in colander under cold running water. Set aside.
- Melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter in now empty pot over medium-high heat. Stir in flour and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture turns light brown, about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in evaporated milk, hot sauce, mustard, nutmeg, and 2 teaspoons salt and cook until mixture begins to simmer and is slightly thickened, about 4 minutes. Off heat, whisk in cheeses and reserved cooking water until cheese melts. Stir in macaroni until completely coated.
- Transfer mixture to 13 by 9-inch baking dish and top evenly with bread-crumb mixture. Bake until cheese is bubbling around edges and top is golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.