WARNING: This recipe is a DIET BUSTER!! If you are on a diet and don’t have planned cheat days (who doesn’t plan cheat days for their diet?), then go ahead and close this page and go about your normal daily activities. But if you are not on a diet, or you are a big fan of King Ranch Chicken and are obsessed with mac and cheese, then by all means keep reading.
When I first spotted this recipe in Mrs. G’s Southern Living back in January, I knew I was going to make it, it was just a matter of when. Mrs. G loves mac and cheese, have I mentioned that before? Well, she does and she can whip up some pretty mean ones and her King Ranch Chicken is out of this world (although you can’t tell from those horrible pics I took. Hey, I was just getting started, cut me some slack). What a fantastic idea to combine the two of them. This past Sunday, I grilled up a bunch of chicken thighs (lately, I’ve been grilling up extra food on Sundays for lunches and casseroles and what not during the week) with no real plans of what I was going to do with them. Mrs G has a bunch of casseroles that use chicken, but I wanted something new. Something different. That’s when I remembered this recipe that I believe graced the cover of Southern Living back in January 2013.
King Ranch Mac and Cheese
(Slightly modified from original Southern Living version, serves 6)
- 1/2 of a 16-oz. package of elbow macaroni
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 1/2 orange bell pepper, diced (the recipe originally called for 1 green bell, but you know how I feel about those)
- 1 (10-oz.) can Ro*Tel (diced tomatoes and green chiles)
- 8 oz Velveeta (or more if you really like cheese), cubed
- 3 cups chopped cooked chicken (leftover BBQ chicken if ya got it )
- 1 (10 3/4-oz.) can cream of chicken soup
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 1/2 cups (6 oz.) shredded Mexican Four Cheese Blend
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente. Do NOT follow the directions on the package or you will end up with soggy, overcooked macaroni after it spends 25-30 minutes additional cook time in the oven. The directions on my box said to cook it for 8-10 minutes, we opted for 6 and it came out perfect.
- Meanwhile, melt butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and bell pepper, and sauté 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in tomatoes and green chiles and Velveeta; cook, stirring constantly until cheese melts. Stir in chicken, next 4 ingredients, and hot cooked pasta until blended. Spoon mixture into a lightly greased 10-inch cast-iron skillet or 11- x 7-inch baking dish; sprinkle with Mexican cheese blend. (The directions said a 10-inch CI skillet, but to us it looked like it wasn’t going to fit, so we used a slightly larger one. I’m not sure on the size as I forgot to measure. maybe 12″?)
- Bake at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes or until bubbly.
- Allow mac and cheese to cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.
How do you like to serve your macaroni and cheese? In a bowl or on a plate?
Me? I’m not real picky. I don’t figure there’s really a right or wrong answer as long as you give me a big ole helping.
What can I say? This dish was everything I hoped it would be. Ooey, gooey cheesy just like mac and cheese should be, but with the flavors of a good King Ranch Chicken. Just a touch of heat from the Ro*Tel and chili powder. Not enough to make your nose run or tongue burn, but enough to remind you that this is no ordinary mac and cheese. A slight earthiness flavor from the cumin combined with the chili powder gave it a Tex-Mex/Southwestern flavor. At first, it was a little weird. Missing was the flavor and texture of the corn tortillas that go into a King Ranch Chicken, to be replaced by elbow macaroni. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just different.
If you are going to blow your diet, or you plan your cheat days, this dish it totally worth it, IMHO. Not something we’re going to make on a regular basis for health reasons, but next time we have left over chicken, I’m seriously going to consider this recipe when deciding what to do with it.
What I Would Do Differently
Not a damn thing. Winner, winner, mac and cheese and chicken dinner. Honestly, not one thing would I do differently.