Now that football is over for another year, I decided to make a game-day, football-party, feed a crowd sort of a dinner. Whoops. I was inspired, but a little too late.
It all starts with my inability to say no to door-to-door salesmen. I can barely tell the door-to-door Jesus peddlers to go away. It’s especially difficult to say ‘no’ here in Tahoe, when it’s snowy and they’re out there trying to sell magazines to turn their ‘insert unfortunate circumstances here’ lives around. On one memorable occasion, it was all snowy and these two gentlemen came to the door, and they were from the South. They looked pretty cold and out of their element, but were super upbeat and friendly! I felt so guilty about not buying a magazine so I wanted to give them some of the chili I was making but the beans weren’t cooked yet. I was so distraught, I had to send them on their way with hot cornbread muffins. But, because of situations like this, I discover a few interesting cooking magazines from time to time.
My favorite new magazine that I’ve been suckered into buying is certainly Taste of Home. I saw an intriguing recipe for “Buffalo Chicken Lasagna” in the Feb/March ’13 issue, which led me to poke around their website (so many great, free recipes!), and then I saw a TON of buffalo chicken themed recipes, which then led me to make this dish…
Buffalo Chicken Pasta Bake
Serves 4 – cost approx $1.57 per serving
- 1 lb short pasta, I used shells ($.89)
- 1-2 cups leftover shredded chicken ($.50)
- 1/2 cup Franks Hot Sauce, divided use – very traditional for buffalo chicken ($.25)
- 1/2 cup A.P. Flour, divided use ($.10)
- 3 Tbs vegetable oil or bacon grease
- 1/2 onion, small dice ($.22)
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 bell pepper, medium dice – I used 1/2 each red and green bell peppers ($.50)
- 3 ribs celery, medium dice ($.19)
- 3 carrots, medium dice ($.35)
- 2 cups milk ($.36)
- 1 bay leaf
- salt and black pepper, to taste
- 2 cups jack cheese, divided use ($1.50)
- 1/4 cup parsley, minced ($.10)
- 1/2 cup blue cheese dressing ($.33)
- 1/4 cup bread crumbs
- 1/2 or 5 oz spreadable cheese – I got a good deal on a ‘spicy buffalo’ flavored cheese with almonds, but any cheese spread or even cream cheese would be tasty ($.75)
Begin by putting a pot of water on to boil and cook the pasta in salted water until soft, but not fully done. (A little harder than al dente, because they’re going to cook more in the oven.) Drain, being sure to reserve 1-2 cups of pasta water.
Put the oven on to 375 F. Mix the shredded chicken with 1/4 cup Franks Hot Sauce, it should all get more or less absorbed in the chicken. When the oven comes up to temp, toss 1/4 cup flour with the chicken. Put the floured chicken on a greased or non-stick sheet tray and crisp up the edges in the oven, about 15 minutes or so. Set aside for later.
Start the sauce by heating the veg oil or the bacon grease in large pot. Saute all the veggies for about 10 minutes, or until all the veggies are cooked.
Add in the flour to make an informal roux and cook for 2-3 minutes more. Add in the remaining 1/4 cup Franks Hot Sauce to deglaze the pan. Then add in the 2 cups milk and bring to a gentle simmer, add 1 cup of the pasta water. Keep the remaining pasta water in case you want to thin out the sauce later. Add in the bay leaf too, and simmer for 10 minutes. Taste your burgeoning sauce, check the seasonings and add the salt and black pepper to your taste. Add in 1/2 of the jack cheese and melt it in there.
Now for the exciting mix in part. I like it because there are more distinct regions of flavor in the finished dish this way. All at the same time, mix in the remaining cheese, the drained pasta, the crisped chicken, the parsley and the blue cheese dressing and stir just so that everything is covered in the sauce but you still have unmelted cheese or streaks of blue cheese dressing.
To make a quick topping, smoosh together the bread crumbs and the spreadable cheese and put a thin layer of it on top. Bake at 375 F for another 20 minutes or so, or until the topping is golden brown and bubbly. Grab a beer or other refreshing beverage and dig in!