Spicy Mac with Chicken
In Portland, there is a restaurant named Montage. It is known for its late night, post-drinking Southern food, especially their macaroni and cheese. They wrap their leftovers in tinfoil, giving you a sculpture to take home (a squirrel, sword, or flower anyone?). They’re known for having rude, abrupt servers, but that’s why you go late at night, post-drinking. Who cares at that hour?
That macaroni and cheese, though, is reason enough to head there any night of the week. They have several variations, but the spold [spicy+old–and it’s old as in old fashioned cheesy gravy, not old as in moldy] mac is a force to be reckoned with. It’s a hearty, stick-to-your-ribs kind of dish. It’s spicy. It’s just good.
Ever since I saw this recipe for macaroni and cheese on The Kitchn, I knew I had to try and recreate spold at home. I put together a full batch in a 13×9 pan. The two of us almost ate the whole thing in one sitting. There were two small portions for each of us to eat for lunch the next day. I think it’s safe to say that it was pretty much awesome. On top of that, it’s relatively healthy–as far as mac is concerned anyway. I’m one of those Type-A people who uses MyFitnessPal because I’m a logaholic. I’m not trying to lose weight, but I kind of like knowing just how many calories I’m shoveling in my mouth. It works out to about 375 a serving. Isn’t that crazy good? I was surprised, delighted, and it meant I could eat even more of it.
If you’re like anyone else in my family, I know what you’re thinking. “But it has tofu in it!” Trust me. You don’t notice. It adds to the creamy rich texture without adding flavor. It’s almost like a ricotta cheese. You don’t taste the almond milk, either. Next time, I’ll probably use soy because I can’t get enough protein. I’m making this again soon, but probably going to find more vegetables to sneak in it. Pureed cauliflower? Sauteed spinach? Mushrooms? The options are endless.
Serves 8 [or two really hungry people who don’t care about portion control]
- 12 ounces artichoke hearts [I used marinated ones because that’s all I had, but frozen work well here, too]
- 2 jalapenos, chopped
- 13oz elbow macaroni or small shells [I used whole wheat shells]
- 2 cooked chicken breasts, shredded [I poached mine, but one of those rotisserie chickens would be a great time saver]
- 8 ounces silken tofu
- 2 1/2 cups almond milk
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1-2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
- Sriracha or hot sauce of choice
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 6 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded [I used half vintage white and half sharp]
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs or panko [I made my own with some whole grain bread]
- 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking dish [I used PAM].
- Place the artichoke hearts in a colander and run cold water over them for a few moments.
- Remove from the colander and chop into small pieces.
- Heat a pot of salted water to boiling and add the pasta. Cook the pasta for 2 minutes less than the package specifies, to just barely al dente.
- Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the pasta from cooking. Return to the cooking pot.
- Add artichoke, jalapeno, and chicken to the cooked pasta.
- Place a deep skillet or wide saucepan over medium heat.
- Mash the tofu in the pan thoroughly with a fork or whisk.
- Whisk in the milk, mustard, salt, cayenne and pepper.
- Warm the mix until bubbles form around the edges, then whisk in the cornstarch and shredded cheese.
- Cook, stirring constantly for five minutes until the mixture thickens just slightly. A lumpy mixture is totally okay here.
- Pour the cheese mixture into the pot with the pasta. Add hot sauce to taste. Stir thoroughly.
- Spread in the prepared baking dish.
- Mix the bread crumbs and Parmesan and sprinkle over the pasta.
- Top with more cayenne, salt, or pepper if desired.
- Bake for 45 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy on top. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.