I have been anxiously waiting for the perfect night to make this ultimate comfort dish for the family. Seth and I often spend our evening time, after the kids go to bed, together browsing through Pinterest for potential dinner ideas. My crew tends to be picky, which is why I like to stick to dishes we love and tweak those up each time I cook. Mac n Cheese is just one of those dishes that you can make into an entire meal just by adding a meat. I love easy dishes and casseroles and the simple fact that this recipe calls for bacon makes it even better. Originally, I stumbled upon this recipe and it did not call for adding chicken. But, again, I would much rather turn any side dish into an entire meal for a couple different reasons (1) easy clean-up (2) it’s pointless to slave over the stove all day, preparing numerous items when my children will more than likely just want a hotdog and (3) my children are the pickiest eaters, so we like to stick to what we know. This would be the ultimate side dish. You could definitely tweak this recipe in more than one way, but we opted to toss in some seasoned grilled chicken and call it a
day meal. Go big or go home, right?
I don’t know if any of you have ever tried the Applebees’ 4 Cheese Mac and Cheese with Honey Pepper Chicken, but drool. This recipe actually reminds me a lot of that dish. You could easily swap the grilled chicken for fried or if you are pressed for time purchase a Rotisserie chicken or fried chicken fingers straight from your local deli and toss them right in before serving. This recipe isn’t meant to be stressful… it’s a comfort dish. You’ll want to find comfort in taking in all the cheesy, bacon-y, downright wholesome flavor of this dish.
Chicken + Bacon Jalepeño Mac n Cheese
This Chicken Bacon Jalepeño Mac n Cheese has just the right amount of heat to make it an exciting treat for game day or an entire meal that is pure comfort food. (PRINT)
- 16 ounces pasta (I used organic rotini)
- 1 pound bacon ends and pieces
- 1 cup sliced fresh jalapenos, with seeds, stems removed (about 5 small)
- 1 whole shredded rotisserie chicken
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup milk or heavy cream
- 2 cups shredded Gruyere (or add smoked Gouda to add a whole other level of smokey/creaminess)
- 3 cups shredded sharp cheddar
- In a large pot of salted water, cook pasta to desired doneness. Drain and set aside.
- In a large pot or dutch oven, cook the bacon. When done, remove cooked bacon pieces and set aside. Discard bacon grease, reserving no more than a tablespoon in the pot. Add sliced jalapeno to remaining bacon grease with bacon. Cook over medium heat until tender and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Toss in shredded chicken, stir.
- Add butter to mixture and allow to melt. Toss in shredded chicken, stir. Add milk/heavy cream and bring to boil while stirring constantly. Remove from heat, add cheese, and stir until melted. As soon as the cheese has melted and a sauce has formed, remove mixture from heat and stir in pasta. Enjoy!
Just a few extra cooking tips:
- Always cook pasta in heavily salted water. Use at least a full tablespoon per pound of pasta. Ensure the water is at a rolling boil before adding the pasta and use enough water to provide a good inch above your pasta.
- To cook your bacon on the stove top, use a heavy bottom pan like a dutch oven. Start off with reasonably high heat, and after it starts to sizzle, gradually reduce the heat. This will give your bacon a wonderful browned color and will perfectly render all of the fat without burning it.
- If you like things extra spicy, don’t discard the jalapeno seeds. If you need the spice more tame in your Bacon Jalepeño Mac and Cheese, be sure to discard the seeds. Cooking the jalapeno in about a tablespoon of the residual bacon grease is the best way to soften it and bring out the flavor.
- I always recommend making a milk gravy before adding the cheese. Bringing the butter and milk to a boil first and then stirring in the cheese off the heat source makes an amazing cheese sauce.
- Be sure to use high quality cheese anytime you’re making homemade macaroni cheese, whether it’s stove-top mac and cheese or in the oven. My most favorite blend is a combination of Gruyere or Gouda.
You could also go an extra step and add a crumb topping and bake this dish. Here’s to hoping there’s leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch! 😉
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