Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Grilled Chicken and Bacon Mac ‘n Cheese

By Paul Briand

Mac ‘n cheese is all about comfort food, and we needed some comfort recently as my wife Jane’s family gathered in Maryland for the funeral of a beloved aunt.

And what better source for comfort food, at least in my mind, than Rachael Ray.

Her recipe for Grilled Chicken and Bacon Mac ‘n Cheese struck a chord because it was relatively easy to prepare, it served a lot of people … and it had bacon. You can never go wrong cooking with bacon.

I basically doubled this recipe to handle six people (there were leftovers). And I didn’t use fresh thyme (I used what was in the spice rack), and I used a bag of Italian blend cheeses rather than the Gruyere.

6 slices good-quality smoky bacon, such as applewood smoked bacon
Salt and pepper
1 pound whole wheat short-cut pasta
2 skinless chicken breasts, lightly pounded
Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
4 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, quartered lengthwise and very thinly sliced
2 rounded tablespoons flour
1/2 cup cloudy apple cider or chicken stock
2 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
1 1/2 cups shredded extra-sharp white cheddar cheese
1 cup Gruyère cheese, shredded
Chopped flat leaf parsley or celery greens, for garnish


1.Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees;
2. Arrange the bacon on a slotted broiler pan or on a rack placed over a baking sheet and bake until crisp, about 15 minutes. Chop and reserve. Switch on the broiler and position the rack in the center of the oven;
3. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Salt it, add the pasta and cook for 1 minute less than the instructions indicate, or until just shy of al dente. Drain and return to the pot;
4. While the pasta is working, heat a grill pan or cast iron griddle over medium-high heat. Drizzle the chicken with olive oil to coat lightly, then season evenly with paprika, salt and pepper;
5. Grill the chicken for about 10 minutes, turning occasionally.Transfer to a cutting board and halve the pieces lengthwise, then thinly slice them crosswise;
6. While the chicken cooks, melt the butter in a medium size saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until light golden brown and very soft, 15-20 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour and stir for 1 minute;
7. Whisk in the cider (or stock), then add the milk. Bring to a boil and cook, whisking, until the sauce coats the back of a spoon, 3-4 minutes. Add the thyme and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir in the cheese until melted;
8. Add the chicken, bacon and sauce to the pasta and transfer to a casserole. Broil until bubbling and browned, about 5 minutes. Garnish with parsley or celery greens.

Click here for recipe card.

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