Last weekend was a quiet girls’ weekend at the cabin. No kids. No spouses. Wine on the dock during the day and by the fireplace in the evening. Brilliantly colored leaves and fall temperatures. Long walks on a treelined streets. And comfort food. Sweet comfort food.
Like this BBQ Chicken Macaroni and Cheese.
Planning a menu for a girls’ weekend is a special kind of fun. No picky kiddos. No meat eating spouses. And since my kids don’t eat cheese (Yes, I know this is weird. Yes, both my husband and I eat cheese- every chance we get. Yes, this includes not eating cheese on pizza. No, neither child is lactose intolerant, as measured by the vast quantities of ice cream they can both choke down. See? Weird.) I had planned cheesy wonders. Wonders.
Imagine my surprise when my friend said she wasn’t all that into macaroni and cheese. I get that my kids are weird, but my friends too? Not into macaroni and cheese? Really?
Maybe I am the weird one, because I am very into macaroni and cheese. Very.
Nevertheless, I was on “vacation” and away from the cheese hating masses, therefore we were having macaroni and cheese and I was making it. From scratch. I would eat the whole pan if need be (I’m super flexible that way).
I decided on a BBQ chicken version as I had recently found a BBQ sauce I really liked (for the locals it was Lunds and Byerlys Southern Style Sweet & Smoky Barbecue Sauce -you can thank me later) and was looking for ways to use it. (Beside the obvious slather it over everything and dunk what’s left into it-I had done that already, thank you very much, and I was desperately trying to not to just spoon into my mouth. You know, manners and all.) BBQ Chicken Macaroni and Cheese sounded pretty dang good.
There were decisions to be made. How cheesy? What kind of cheese? How much smoky, sweet BBQ goodness? Red onions or green? Turns out these decisions are so much easier to make when there is no one asking you to do a million other things. The answers: just cheesy enough. Not soupy, high quality cheese only. A touch of smoky, sweet BBQ goodness, after all we don’t want it to overwhelm. Green onions, definitely green onions.
With those decisions out of the way, the cooking could begin. My friend started fighting with the eggplant for the salad we were having (this salad: Eggplant with Avocado Salad. Thanks, Kim Burlingham, for sharing this one with us! And readers-if you’re going to make this one, message me, I have a few tips to keep your fighting to a minimum). The good news? Fighting with eggplant makes my darling friend hungry. And appreciative. And I’ll be darned if she didn’t rave about the BBQ Chicken Macaroni and Cheese. And you will too.
- ¼ cup unsalted butter
- 3 Tablespoons all purpose flour
- 4 cups milk
- 8 ounces gruyere cheese, shredded (2-3 cups)
- 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (approximately 2-3 cups)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup panko crumbs
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- 2 cups shredded chicken + additional for garnish (optional)
- ¼ cup barbecue sauce (I use a sweet and smoky version) + additional for garnish (optional).
- 16 ounces macaroni noodles, cooked according to package directions
- green onions, finely chopped for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- In a medium saucepan, melt ¼ cup butter.
- Quickly whisk in flour until a roux (paste) is formed.
- Heat milk in a small saucepan (or in the microwave to save time!).
- Slowly add heated milk (and make sure it's fully warmed first) to the roux, whisking and simmering.
- Add shredded cheese, whisking and simmering until thickened, approximately 10 minutes.
- Add salt to taste.
- While thickening cheese sauce, use a small skillet to melt 2 Tablespoons butter.
- Brown panko crumbs in melted butter, browning 30 seconds to 1 minute on medium high, set aside.
- Place cooked macaroni noodles in a casserole dish or 12 inch cast iron skillet.
- Pour cheese sauce over noodles.
- In a small bowl, mix chicken and barbecue sauce.
- Mix BBQ chicken into the noodles and cheese.
- Top with browned panko crumbs.
- Bake approximately 35 minutes, until cheese is bubbly and top is browned.
- Allow to cool for approximately 5 minutes.
- Garnish with green onions and additional barbecue chicken or barbecue sauce, if desired
- Serve and enjoy!
Do you love macaroni and cheese? What are some of your favorite variations? Let us know in the comments below!
(Here is another of my favorites: Buffalo Bacon Macaroni and Cheese)