I’ve noticed a lot of palate pleasing macaroni and cheese recipes floating around the blogosphere in recent weeks and it makes me happy. Really happy. And hungry. Of all the mood warming meals that are to be had in my food infused world, noodles and cheese come pretty darn close to the top of the list. Here’s my take on a jazzed up version of mac and cheese. I added a little chicken and green chiles to the mix, just because. My husband is always grateful for the meat addition so he considered this dish a keeper. Be sure to add the fresh tomato garnish at the end. The bright, fresh bite of the fruit pairs superbly with the hearty flavor and texture of the mac and cheese.
Putting a bowl together is simple. You’ll start by boiling up a pot of noodles. Cook them until they’re almost tender, but not quite. We’re going to pop this dish in the oven and you want them to finish cooking in that heavenly cheese sauce.
Next up, grab a diced onion and toss it into a pan along with a little melted butter.
Let that heat up for a few minutes and then toss in a couple handfuls of chicken and a can of diced green chiles. Any chicken will do. I added a can from Trader Joe’s but rotisserie or leftover work just as well.
Stir that all together and then remove the pan from the heat and set the mixture to the side. Into the same pan add a few hearty tablespoons of butter. Mix in an equal amount of flour and stir it together to create a roux.
Pour in a few cups of milk and a little bit of chicken stock. Let it simmer until it begins to thicken. It’s at this point that you’ll slip in the cream cheese.
Let the cream cheese have a minute or two to melt into the milk and then shake in a pile of delicious spices.
Once everything is combined together, we want to sprinkle in best part; the shredded cheese. Use whatever flavor fits your fancy. I used shredded cheddar and a bit of pepper jack.
Stir in and let it melt up all creamy dreamy. Man I love mac and cheese.
Stir the chicken/chile mixture back into the sauce.
And finally, you’ll add the noodles back in.
Swirl it all around to coat the noodles evenly and then toss it into a butter smeared baking dish. Top with a hearty handful of bread crumbs and a sprinkle or two of chile powder. I also added another sprinkle of oregano just to give it a color pop.
Slip it into the oven and let it finish cooking up all bubbly and wonderful.
Serve the finished dish with a handful of diced tomatoes and enjoy a little forkful of comfort food heaven.
Mexican Cheesy Mac
Total Time: 40 min
8 Oz. Noodles
6 Tbsp Butter
1 Onion, Diced
1 12 Oz. Can Cooked Chicken (or 2 Cups Diced chicken; rotisserie or leftover works great)
1 4 Oz. Can Diced Green Chiles
4 Tbsp Flour
2 Cups Milk
1/2 Cup Chicken Broth
4 Oz. Cream Cheese
21/2 tsp Cumin
2 tsp Oregano
1 tsp Dry Mustard
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Chile Powder
3 Cups Shredded Cheese (sharp cheddar and/or pepper jack work well)
1/2 Cup Panko Bread Crumbs
Cook the noodles in a large pot of salted boiling water. Remove from water just before finished cooking. Noodles should still be slightly hard on the inside but cooked on the outside. Set to the side.
In a separate pan, heat up 2 tablespoons of the butter on medium heat. Add in the onion and cook for about 3-4 minutes or until they begin to turn translucent.
Add in chicken and green chiles and let cook for a minute or two more. Remove from heat and set aside.
To a large saute pan add in the remaining butter and allow it to melt down. Add in the flour and create a roux.
To the roux add in the milk and chicken broth. Let it heat up for a couple minutes until it begins to thicken.
Stir in the cream cheese.
Add in the spices; the cumin, oregano, mustard, garlic powder, salt, and chile powder.
Once the cream cheese is completely melted, add in the shredded cheese, one cup at a time until melted.
Add the chicken mixture back into the pan and stir to combine.
Last up, add in the noodles and stir well to coat evenly.
Add the noodles to a buttered baking dish (I just wiped about a tablespoon of butter around the sides with a paper towel) and sprinkle the panko crumbs over the top. Feel free to sprinkle a little extra chile powder on for color and flavor if you'd like.
Slide into a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes until bubbly and cooked through.
Garnish with diced fresh tomatoes.