Recipe of the Week: Creamy Mac & Cheese with Ham and Chicken

MacNCheeseNothing warms you from the inside out like a big tray of macaroni and cheese on a cold winter day. I’ve been told my recipe is a bit unconventional (mostly because I cook the chicken with onions) but it’s still delicious. You don’t have to include the onion when you cook the chicken but I find if you don’t flavor the chicken it gets lost within the Mac & Cheese. I can assure you, you even don’t notice the onions are there once it’s all combined and baked.

I typically have all 3 steps working at the same time, the sauce, the chicken and the pasta, but you have to pay close attention to the sauce to avoid the bottom burning. If you are not confident you can prepare the chicken first and set aside while you prepare the sauce.

Ingredients:

1 medium ham steak diced (Approximately 8 inch diameter)

1.5 lbs pasta cooked al dente (I prefer Cellentani/Cavatappi, but you can also use elbows, ziti, or penne)

Chicken:

1 TB Olive Oil (or cooking oil of choice)
1 small/medium onion diced
1 tsp garlic
1lb of raw chicken chopped to bite sized dice
salt/pepper/cayenne to taste

Sauce:

6 TB Butter
6 TB All-purpose Flour
3.5-4 cups Whole Milk
1 pound sharp or extra sharp cheddar Cheese, Grated
6 – 8 oz velveeta diced
1/2 teaspoon Salt, More To Taste
1/2 teaspoon Seasoned Salt, More To Taste
1/2 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
Cayenne Pepper to taste

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 325.

In a medium saute pan, over medium high heat, warm the olive oil until. Add onion and saute until the onion begins to turn clear, add garlic and cook until fragrant (about 30-60 seconds), add the diced chicken. Sautee until cooked through stirring occasionally. Add pepper and cayenne but do not salt as there’s a lot of salt in the cheese and it is preferred to wait until the last step to salt.

In a medium to large sauce pot over medium heat, melt the butter, add the flour, then slowly wisk in milk stirring constantly until the sauce starts to thicken. Gradually add about equal parts sharp cheddar and Velveeta. Stir the cheeses in gradually in 3 batches to let the cheese melt between each addition. Season with salt/pepper/cayenne to taste. I don’t typically need to add any salt once the cheese is in there. Add more or less cheese to taste, and if sauce becomes too thick, add the additional milk.

Cook the pasta until just under al dente, about 1-2 minutes less than the time on the box. Don’t over cook the pasta as it will absorb moisture when it bakes. Drain pasta and add it back to the pot, add the chicken, ham and the sauce. Stir ingredients together until mixed and taste to make sure it doesn’t need any more salt then pour into a deep 13×9 pan. Spread the remaining cheddar on top.

Bake for 20 minutes at 325 then broil for 3-5 minutes to get the cheese brown and bubbly. Be sure to watch the cheese during this step so as not to burn it. Let stand 5-10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Macaroni and Cheese with sauteed chicken and ham
Macaroni and Cheese with sauteed chicken and ham

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