Yesterday I visited the Downingtown Mac and Cheese Cook-Off sponsored by the Rotary Club - $10 for all the Mac and Cheese samples you could handle. There were numerous restaurants and businesses involved in the friendly competition. I tasted them all - and, all were delicious. But, for me, the winner was clear - Amani's BYOB. Their entry - Smoked Short Rib Mac and Cheese. Meaty, cheesey, smokey!
The Mac and Cheese Cook-Off got us thinking - create a mac and cheese recipe featuring farmers market ingredients. The inspiration for the recipe - this super spicy pasta from Vera Pasta - Grlic, EVOO and Chiles. Folks, this is not for the faint of heart - this pasta has heat, lots of it.
And what did we do with this spicy pasta - Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese! Mandatory ingredients - chicken, hot sauce, blue cheese and celery. Take a gander at the market ingredients I picked to feature: that pasta needs cheese - in this case Fat Cat and Birchrun Blue, both from Birchrun Hills Farm; some grilled chicken legs / thighs (you pick: Lindenhof Farm, Wyebrook Farm or Canter Hill Farm); celery and lovage from Kimberton CSA (see note below after the recipe); and some hot sauce.
For the cheese sauce I sautéed one spring garlic bulb and about 1/4 cup chopped celery in 4 tablespoons of butter until tender. Add about 1/4 cup flour and cook to toast the flour; then whisk in about 1 1/2 cups milk, continue whisking until the sauce thickens. Add about 4 ounces of cubed Fat Cat Cheese, and whisk until melted. Season with salt and pepper. Add shredded chicken from 2 pre-cooked legs / thighs (leftovers from a grilled dinner).
Cook 1/2 to 3/4 pound of the pasta to al dente.
Make the bread crumb topping: Melt 4 tablespoons of butter. Add 1/4 cup of celery and saute until tender. Add about 1 cup of fresh bread crumbs (from Saint Peters Bakery) and allow them to toast, season with salt and pepper. Add a couple of splashes of hot sauce to taste - remember, the pasta has lots of heat, don't over do it. Remove from heat and add about 1/2 cup of chopped lovage leaves.
Putting it all together: Add the sauce to the cooked pasta and toss to combine, put into a casserole. Crumble about 3 - 4 ounces of the Birchrun Blue cheese over the pasta, then using a spatula, push some of the blue cheese into the middle of the casserole*. Top the casserole with the toasted bread crumbs, crumble about 2 - 3 ounces of Birchrun Blue cheese over the bread crumbs and sprinkle with some more hot sauce.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Enjoy! It's spicy, cheese-y full of chicken and rich blue cheese!
* Don't add the blue cheese to the sauce or it will turn the sauce grey.