Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Mac and Cheese with Chicken and Broccoli

Mac and cheese makes a great comfort food for a cold winters night, but it's also great to eat any time of year. I'm not talking about the boxed pasta with that powdery cheese, or even the deluxe version with over powering fake cheese sauce. I'm talking about the creamy, luscious, real cheese sauce that coats every inch of the pasta you're using. The traditional pasta, of course, is macaroni, but I like to use a corkscrew pasta or even a medium shell pasta. When using shells, they fill up with cheese and it's just so ooey gooey and yummy. Plus, because this is mac and cheese, your kids are sure to eat it up! I make it a complete meal by throwing in some chicken breast and broccoli too. I also use a blend of three cheeses. The Gruyère and Cheddar provide the flavor, while the fontina adds creaminess.

What You Need:

1lb pound of pasta (macaroni, shell, etc)
1/2 lb (8oz) Gruyère cheese (shredded)
1/2 lb (8oz)  extra-sharp cheddar  (shredded)
1/4 lb (4oz) fontina cheese  (shredded)
4 tbs butter
4 tbs flour
4 cups milk
1 lb chicken breast, cut into bite size pieces
1 lb broccoli, fresh or frozen cut into bite size pieces
1/4 tsp fresh nutmeg
salt and pepper

What To Do:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once it boils, salt it heavily and cook your pasta a minute or two shy of doneness because it will continue to cook in the cheese sauce. During the last few minutes, add in your broccoli, obviously if you're using fresh, it will take a bit longer to cook then frozen which really just needs to be heated through.
Meanwhile, in a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Once melted, whisk in the flour and let cook for a minute or two to remove the flour taste. Very slowly, whisk in the milk to prevent lumps. Turn the heat to medium high and bring to a bubble so that it thickens about 10 minutes. Once the milk has thickened a bit, slowly stir in the cheeses, little by little, waiting until the additional has melted before adding in more. Stir in the nutmeg and season with salt and pepper. Add in the bite sized chicken and let cook over low heat for about 5 minutes. This will start the chicken cooking.
Once the pasta is cooked, stir it and the broccoli into the cheese sauce. Place into a large casserole dish that has been lightly sprayed with oil or cooking spray and bake in a preheated 350 oven for about 30 minutes or until it's bubble and a bit browned on top. You can always give it a sprinkle with bread crumbs before baking too which would give it a bit of crunch on top, or even some crushed up cheese doodles.

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