RECIPE

Grilled Chicken-and-Bacon Mac ‘n Cheese

This hearty mac ‘n cheese is richly flavored with chicken, cheese and bacon.

Ingredients

  • 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 (EVOO), for drizzling
  • 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

Preparation

Pre-heat the oven to 375°F.


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.


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.


While the pasta is working, heat a grill pan or cast iron griddle over medium-high heat. Drizzle the chicken with EVOO to coat lightly, then season evenly with paprika, salt and pepper. Grill the chicken for about 10 minutes, turning occasionally. Transfer to a cutting board and halve the pieces lengthwise, then thinly slice them crosswise.


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. 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.


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.

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