King Ranch Mac and Cheese

King Ranch Mac and Cheese
King Ranch Mac and Cheese

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.

Mixin everything into a cast iron skillet
Mixin’ everything into a cast iron skillet

     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)

Ingredients

  • 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
The original recipe called for shredded cheddar cheese. I figured a Mexican Four Blend Cheese would work better. Ready for the oven.
The original recipe called for shredded cheddar cheese. I figured a Mexican Four Blend Cheese would work better. We’re ready for the oven.

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. 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.
  3. 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″?)
  4. Bake at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes or until bubbly.
  5. Allow mac and cheese to cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.
After cooking in the oven approximately 25 minutes.
Cooling after cooking in the oven approximately 25 minutes.

How do you like to serve your macaroni and cheese? In a bowl or on a plate?

Mrs. G likes to eat hers out of a bowl.
Mrs. G likes to eat hers out of a bowl.

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.

I had mine on a plate
Mrs. G served mine up on a plate.

     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.

We probably ate more than we should have, it was that good.
We probably ate more than we should have, it was that good.

     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.

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Chicken Thighs with a Crabmeat Stuffing

Chicken Thighs with a Crabmeat Stuffing
Chicken Thighs with a Crabmeat Stuffing

     Wow!! It’s been almost a month since I’ve posted anything! I do believe that’s the longest I’ve ever gone and I’m sorry for that. We’ve been going through some trying stuff (close family and friends will know what I’m talking about) and cooking just hasn’t been much on my mind lately. Not that we haven’t been cooking, but its been stuff like burgers or fajitas or stuff that wasn’t really blog worthy. Or stuff we’ve already done here. Been doing quite a bit more cooking inside, more than is normal for us.  But we’re back!! And today we are bringing you these bundles of chicken with a crabmeat stuffing. And never fear…I’ve got about six cooks lined up that I am super excited about. So stay tuned and see what we’re cooking up.

     We’ve been trying to clear out the freezer a bit lately. I came across these chicken thighs and I didn’t want to just throw them on the Egg with a bit of rub or sauce. No…I wanted to do something else. We’ve all seen stuffed chicken breasts….why not thighs? Dark meat has more flavor than white meat and is less likely to dry out. Sounds like a winner to me, so I started looking around for recipes, found one I liked and modified it a bit to fit our tastes.

Applying the stuffing to the boneless chicken thighs.
Applying the stuffing to the boneless chicken thighs.

     Before we get started, if you can find boneless chicken thighs, do yourself a favor and buy them. Not that its hard to debone a thigh, it’s just a pain in the but. That’s what was in the freezer though, so that’s what I used. I’m keeping my eyes out for boneless from now on.

Ingredients

  • 6 boneless chicken thighs, skin on
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup celery, diced fine
  • 1/2 cup onion, diced fine
  • 1 6oz can lump crabmeat, drained (if you can get fresh, go for it. Not kitchen tested as I couldn’t get any)
  • 2 tbsp white wine (we used Pinot Grigio as that was what Mrs. G was drinking)
  • 1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
  • 2 cups bread cubes
  • your favorite bbq or chicken rub (We used Dizzy Pig’s Tsunami Spin, a rub with mid and far Eastern influences)
Layering the stuffing on is the easy part, wait till you get to rolling them up.
Layering the stuffing on is the easy part, wait till you get to rolling them up.

Directions

  1. Add the vegetable oil and butter to a large skillet and over medium heat.
  2. Add the celery and onion and sprinkle on a pinch of salt. Sautee until soft, about five minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and add poultry seasoning and pepper. Next, stir in crabmeat, bread cubes and wine. Allow to cool.
  4. Preheat your grill to 400F. If using an Egg or other ceramic cooker, set it up for a direct cook with raised grates. For other charcoal or gas grills, you want a 2 zone cooking set up with flame on one side and none on the other. (This will allow you a safe area to move chicken in case of flare ups.)
  5. Lay the chicken out skin side down and spread an even layer of the mixture over each one.
  6. Now the tricky part….roll the chicken up and secure with toothpicks. We didn’t get any pictures of this as we had nasty chicken stuff all over our hands and didn’t want tot get it on the camera. You understand, don’t you and forgive us? I knew you would.
  7. Once you’ve got them all rolled out, season the outside with your rub and place on the grill.
  8. Cook the chicken for about 20 minutes, turning every so often to ensure even cooking (I went about every 5 minutes)
  9. Cook until chicken hits about 165F. Sure, that’s high for chicken breasts, but the thighs can take that kind of heat without drying out.
Onto the Egg at 400F
Onto the Egg at 400F

     We’ve talked about wood and smoke before. Have you been paying attention? What kind of wood would pair well with chicken?

About 10 minutes in.
About 10 minutes in.

If you answered a light wood, possible a fruit wood such as apple or cherry, then you are correct! Give yourself 10 points. Not sure what you are going to do with them, but 10 points has to be better than none, right? Notice those two small pieces of chicken off to the side? Casualties of my poor deboning skills. I like to call them chef’s treats as I get to eat them while the chicken is cooking. 😉

Finished after 20 minutes.
Finished after 20 minutes.

Once the chicken is done, remove it from the grill and loosely cover with foil for about 5 minutes to rest. This gives you some time to make a salad or some other side dish.

Is your mouth watering yet?
Is your mouth watering yet?

     We kept it simple and just went with a wedge salad. We figured the bread crumbs in the stuffing already counted as carbs, so we didn’t need a potato or rice or couscous.

Dinner is served!!
Dinner is served!!

     The chicken turned out pretty good, if I do say so myself. Juicy, with a nice flavor from the rub and just the right amount of smoke. The first bite gave you that familiar stuffing taste with the bread and onions and celery and poultry seasoning, but then you noticed it was just a bit different from Thanksgiving stuffing. I’d really like to say that the crab meat stole the show, but in all honesty…it was kind of lost with all the other players. It didn’t jump out and you and say, “Hey!! There’s crab in here!!” Maybe fresh crab would give it that extra UMPH. I don’t know.

     I do know that it was fun writing a blog post again. Expect one again real soon. Like maybe tomorrow. Or Monday. And expect venison. 🙂

First Cook At The New House

 

First cook at new house

 

I would like to apologize for the lack of new posts lately. As some of you may know, last week we moved into a new house. And before that was Thanksgiving, so even though we’ve been cooking a bit, it was nothing to blog about.  (I’d also like to apologize for the pictures in this post. They were all from my phone as I couldn’t find our camera.)

For the most part, I think the move went pretty well. This time we actually hired movers and they had us loaded into the truck and unloaded in just under 3 hours! Way faster than we would have been able to do it even with friends and family helping. So now all we have to do is get unpacked and settled in.

Here’s a couple of things about the new house that I think are just too cool.

Spice Rack

 No more digging around in the cabinet looking for spices. This pull out swivel spice rack is going to make things so much easier.

Easy to find BBQ spices

Our new pantry has swivel doors providing much more storage space than I thought would be possible given the size.

Pantry

 And finally a place to store all my “Eggcessories”

Bodi and Olie Checking Out The Shed

 Now, we have a nice covered (and lit) patio to hang out on and grill some grub. Not a big fan of the astro turf, but oh well.

Patio

  Unfortunately, everything did not go as well as planned. We bought a new fridge from Sears over 3.5 weeks ago and had scheduled to have it arrive on Friday, the day before we officially were to move in. Thursday night, Sears calls and confirms the delivery and even gives us a 2 hour window of when they were going to show up. Friday morning rolls around and I get a call at 7:30 AM and guess what…..they won’t be able to make the delivery! And the earliest they can make it is Sunday! I was livid! After much bitching and yelling, I was able to get the delivery charge waived, but that was all. Needless to say, I will not be buying from Sears again no matter how good their sale is. So with no fridge, we had to improvise.

Redneck Ice Chest

 For the first cook, I just kept it simple, since we had such a busy morning. I decided to go with chicken thighs as it’s an easy and quick cook. Four of them got rubbed down with Dizzy Pig Jamaican Firewalk ( a jerk inspired rub) and six of them got Cluck and Squeal’s All Purpose Rub. They went on to the Egg which was preheated to 400 on a raised grate using mesquite for smoke.

Firewalk to the left, Cluck and Squeal to the right

 Got a little busy and the chicken got a little higher than we usually go, but even at 180, chicken off the egg remains pretty juicy. (not to mention I like to cook dark meat a bit higher than the 165 I usually go to on white meat)

Chicken is done

 The chicken was served up with some macaroni salad, blue cheese potato salad and some chips and dips. Didn’t get any plated pictures as we were hungry and in the middle of the Baylor vs. UT game.

Now that we are in the new house, I’ll do my best to try to get back to posting more cooks. Thanks for looking and don’t forget to leave a comment.