Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Spicy Macaroni and Cheese with Chicken

Spicy Macaroni and Cheese with Chicken 1

Somehow I got talked into helping lil' sis and oldest nephew move. Or rather, they needed my car since it's much more spacious than theirs. They didn't really need my help because I'm wimpy and of little use.

After work, as I gathered up the stuff she wanted me to bring down -- shoe blackening pen, my tool kit, her toaster oven, my oldest uncle called inviting me over for his mother-in-law's death anniversary luncheon. I totally should've brought my camera because my aunt had a really nice vegan spread of egg rolls, noodles, dumplings, and curry. Anyway, I stuffed myself on Vietnamese dumplings and played with my cousin's cousin's kids for a bit.

The kids asked me if we could bake cookies again since they had such fun making cookies with me during the holidays. I said I hadn't left the butter out to soften at room temperature (a must for the best texture), but they could help me make mac and cheese to bring down to lil' sis if they'd like. Yay! So my cousin's cousin's daughter and my cousin's other cousin's son came over to help me cook.

Their enthusiasm was sweet. They were so excited just to be in the kitchen. I set them to work shredding leftover rotisserie chicken and grating cheese, while I started the water boiling and sliced an onion.

This spicy mac and cheese with chicken is my interpretation of Le Bistro Montage - Portland's "Spold" Mac and Cheese, with Cajun spices and chicken, and combined with my usual Macaroni and Cheese recipe. Yes, I told you in that recipe that you could add chicken and spices, but I know how lazy you are! Or how lazy lil' sis is. She likes very specific directions when she makes my recipes and says I confuse her if I assume or skip steps.

Spicy Macaroni and Cheese with Chicken 2

Spicy Macaroni and Cheese with Chicken

For enough to feed a family, or two hungry kids, a hungry lil' sis, and a hungry nephew, you'll need:
1 lb macaroni noodles, boiled and drained
1 onion, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 cups rotisserie chicken, shredded into bite-sized pieces or diced chicken
8 oz can cream of mushroom soup
8 oz shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup corn starch
3 cups milk
1 tsp salt, or more according to taste
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Set a pot of water to boil the macaroni. Have the kids grate the cheese and shred the chicken.

Finely dice the onion and mince the garlic. Drizzle in some olive oil and on medium heat, saute the onions and garlic until softened. You can have the kids do this as well because they like to stir things.

Spicy Macaroni and Cheese with Chicken 3

Add the shredded chicken.

Spicy Macaroni and Cheese with Chicken 4

And the cream of mushroom soup. Have one kid continue stirring while you add in ingredients.

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Have the other kid dissolve about 1/4 cup corn starch in 3 cups of milk. You can use a big bowl and do it all at once, I usually just do it a cup at a time, dividing the corn starch in each batch so it can properly dissolve. Add the milk to the pan as you go until you have as much liquid as you'd like. Add the grated cheese.

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Paprika will add some nice color and make it slightly spicy, I told the kids.

Then how come you're putting in nutmeg, my cousin's cousin's son pointed out.

Oops! I reached for my spice shelf without looking closely. No matter. A dash or two of nutmeg in Bechamel Sauce is always good.

So add 1/4 tsp nutmeg and 1 tsp paprika, or less if you can't handle the heat or more if you can. Then about 1 tsp salt or more according to taste.

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Then turn the heat to medium-low and let the mixture thicken into a sauce. Stir every few minutes so the sauce won't get clumpy. The thickening will take about 10 minutes. Taste and add spices or salt if necessary.

Spicy Macaroni and Cheese with Chicken 8

Have the kids play dominoes or something while waiting because they'll be impatient to taste their creations.

When the sauce has thickened to your liking, add in the cooked macaroni noodles. OK, I ended up with way more sauce than macaroni, so eating it fresh will be a little saucier, but once the noodles have absorbed all the sauce, it'll be more like what you expect.

Spicy Macaroni and Cheese with Chicken 9

Scoop out a few bowls for the kids. Caution them to blow on it furiously or they'll burn their tongues.

They won't listen because it'll be the best mac and cheese they've ever had and they can't wait to gobble it down.

Let them go back to their game while eating the best mac and cheese they've ever tasted. That they helped make!

Spoon out some mac and cheese into sandwich bags for them to take home.

Watch as the heat of the hot cheese burst through the sandwich bags.

Burn your fingers as you try to keep the mac and cheese from spilling onto your counter.

Try packaging it again, but with sturdier freezer bags.

Send the kids back to their parents. Who will be undoubtedly amazed that their kids disappeared for half an hour and came back exclaiming to their parents about the mac and cheese they helped make and that it was sooo goood! And then they will proudly show off the bags of homemade mac and cheese that they get to bring home.

Their parents will gush and profusely thank you. At which, you'll wave and say it was no biggie and that the kids should come back soon to bake cookies.

Then stuff some things into an overnight bag and stop off at Banh Mi & Che Cali Restaurant - Alhambra because you remembered lil' sis asked if you could bring her some Vietnamese sandwiches (3 for $5!). And get a couple of glasses of Rau Ma (Vietnamese Pennywort Drink) to-go because it'll be a looong drive.

More than three hours later, you've gone through your 80s New Wave and pop CDs and "Living in Oblivion" is starting to sound like your life because it took you an hour to crawl from south of Irvine to San Clemente, and lil' sis messages you to ask if you're still alive because you've been driving for a while now.

After telling her to meet you downstairs in two minutes, you take a wrong turn and lil' sis texts again to ask where you are because now it's been six minutes.

Then you finally arrive! And can finally start talking in first person again. Because for some reason talking in second-person seemed fun for a while but then got a little awkward when it dragged on for far too long.

I poked my head into nephew's childhood friend's room to see Abby, his 5-month-old Shiba Inu. She's pretty, yeah? Lil' sis asked if I wanted to let her out.

No way. Dogs always want to jump on me. I'm not really a pet person. The only dogs I like are Sebastien and Penny.

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Nephew was out dropping off his friend at the bus station. So I just plopped onto the sofa with exhaustion. And hunger! I made lil' sis spoon up some mac and cheese for me, which was surprisingly still warm. Lil' sis happily ate some too. The extra saucy noodles had now turned into the right texture.

Spicy Macaroni and Cheese with Chicken 10

That night, after gorging on a meat fest at Phil's BBQ Restaurant - San Diego, lil' sis and oldest nephew packed up my car.

Do you want help, I offered.

Nope, says lil' sis. I had a long drive. Rest. Blog about her. Ha!

The next morning, we drove to the new apartment, unloaded, drove back to the old place, reloaded, drove back again, and unloaded again. Right. Because you can't figure out that's what happens during a move.

I then stayed behind at the new place to await the internet guy and to mop and remop the floors until they didn't feel quite so dusty when I stepped on them.

I had salted a whole chicken the day before and brought it down in a cooler so I could bake it for dinner that evening. Oldest nephew was hungry. It'll be 90 minutes before it's ready, I told him.


You can't rush perfection!

So another trip back to the old place and dinner should be ready by the time they got back again.

I started organizing lil' sis's kitchen, chuckling at the many penguin cups, bowls, and plates I've given her through the years. Afterward, I showed her where I put things and why. Look, this goes here because it's within reach of this, and this goes up high because you don't use it much, and cups are organized from fancy to everyday, which lil' sis totally got because she knows my sense of logic. I created a little baking corner for her on the side shelf with her baking supplies in a tub and her cookbooks on another shelf.

On the last trip, lil' sis brought in the contents of the refrigerator. While everyone was unloading, I started chopping up some grape tomatoes for Pasta Pomodoro (Italian Pasta with Tomatoes). Then it was time to eat! You made this with just garlic, olive oil, and tomatoes, asked oldest nephew who seemed impressed by the simplicity of pasta pomodoro. I also heated up the rest of the mac and cheese.

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And the Peruvian Roast Chicken, sans cumin, was pretty much decimated by the end of dinner.

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The new place is more pet-friendly with tile floors all throughout. Abby will have lots of friends since it seems like all the neighbors have dogs too.

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I offered to give lil' sis's friend a ride home so it was after midnight before I stumbled through my door.

And so concludes the longest, most rambling recounting of a recipe ever! But full of inane lil' sis details, which should please her to no end, and her friends who read the blog too.

My other noodle dishes that lil' sis likes:
Angel Hair Pasta with Balsamic Chicken, Bacon, and Diced Tomatoes
Banh Cuon Xao Bo (Vietnamese Rolled Rice Noodles Stir-Fry with Beef)
Banh Cuon Xao Thap Cam (Vietnamese Combination Rolled Rice Noodle Stir-Fry)
Banh Uot Xao Bo (Vietnamese Wet Rice Noodle Sheet Stir-fry with Beef), Bok Choy, Broccoli, Bean Sprouts, and Spinach
Broccoli Bacon Pasta
Fettuccine Alfredo with Broccoli and Chicken
Hu Tieu Saigon (Vietnamese Clear Noodle Soup with Barbecued Pork and Shrimp)
Lasagna with Meat Sauce
Macaroni and Cheese
Mi Xao Don Thit Bo (Vietnamese Crispy Chow Mein with Beef)
Pad See-Ew (Thai Stir-Fried Soy Sauce Rice Noodles)
Pasta Carbonara
Pasta Pomodoro (Italian Pasta with Tomatoes)
Pesto Pasta
Pho Ap Chao Bo (Vietnamese Pan-Fried Rice Noodles Sauteed with Beef)

1 year ago today, I discovered that Tastebook stole more than 20 of my recipes. Grrr!
2 years ago today, Ca Tim Nhan Cha Tom (Vietnamese Eggplant with Shrimp Paste).
3 years ago today, Bananas Frita (Cuban Fried Bananas).


  1. I totally feel your pain on that drive from Irvine to San Clemente. They always seem to have some type of traffic and/or accident on that part of the 5 freeway. -_-

  2. Oh, I'm so jealous of those 3 for $5 banh mi!!! Ah, that pennywort drink is nice and refreshing, and not (too) sweet. I forgot to keep an eye for it at Vietnamese places here.

    "Then you finally arrive! And can finally start talking in first person again."

    Hahahahaha. =D

    That lil' sis sure is lucky!

  3. love your mac and cheese with a spicy twist. good idea to add paprika :)

  4. Loved this post. And my, but you are a lovely sister - mopping and unpacking and setting up your lil' sis' kitchen!

  5. Diana,
    Gah! I hate sitting in traffic. That drive took forever that day.

    You know, I totally blanked that Pho Thang Long gives free rau ma so you both could of had some!

    Paprika helps with color too because I actually used a combo of Monterey Jack and cheddar so it wasn't yellow enough.

    I know! Actually, I drew the line at scrubbing her toilet. Then she reminded me that she scrubs my toilet when she comes home. Somewhere along the way, it all evens out. :)


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