So far, life as a New Yorker is sublime. We’ve visited the City, from which we are just a mere train ride away (see what I did there? The city), we’ve taken leisurely drives up and down the Hudson Valley, and we’ve discovered some great local restaurants and a neighborhood bar called Leo’s which we’ve visited no less than twice a week. They have a bar and a pizza parlor next door, which makes it way to easy to have a drink after work while waiting for your pizza.
We’re settling in. The trees are finally blooming and look like little wisps of cotton candy. I’m planning a Cinco de Mayo party next weekend (more on that, promise!) which is forcing me to unpack those last few boxes that always seem to linger, and hang up the last few pieces of art on the walls. It’s also inspiring me to hit up HomeGoods because who doesn’t need a few more knick knacks? (Me. I don’t need them).
I’ve still been taking it easy with dinners around here; last night we had chips and guacamole and a cheese plate–tonight it’s top-your-own baked potatoes (russet for K, sweet for me). The first few weeks of Spring always make me crave maximum time outdoors, minimum time in the kitchen. Simplicity.
There are a lot of recipes backlogged from Pittsburgh which I am remiss not to tell you about as soon as possible. In fact, I apologize for waiting this long. For instance, this Sriracha + Chicken Shells and Cheese is everything I want out of mac and cheese for ever and ever. It tops the list of best things I’ve ever made. Ever. Writing about it now is making me seriously rethink baked potato night.
Moving on, I’ve decided that the only reason Mac and Cheese should be orange is when it’s been blessed with Sriracha. So there.
Tell me how you feel about these words: creamy, melty, crunchy, spicy, meaty, cheesy.
You love them! How could you not?! Those are all my favorite things. ALL.
The sriracha isn’t overwhelming, I promise. If you’re against spicy things, you can reduce the amount you use, but there’s so much cheese and milk that the spice is actually very, very mild. It acts mostly as flavor, not heat; that’s what I love most about Sriracha. It’s flavor with spice, not spice for spice’s sake. Does that make sense?
I reduced the amount of pasta and added chicken to make it a more balanced meal, but it still has just enough decadence to still wear the name “shells and cheese” proudly. The flavor, though, is incredible. Everything works.
Please, just make this. Will you do that for me? Please? Then let’s go enjoy Spring. Can we enjoy the outdoors with a bowl of shells and cheese? Is that a thing?
Too many questions. Just make it.
Here’s the recipe.
Sriracha + Chicken Shells and Cheese (Adapted from Shutterbean)
- 8 ounces medium shells
- 1 1/2 cups cooked shredded chicken
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 3 cups skim milk
- 2 cups grated Havarti
- Salt and pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 2-3 tablespoons Sriracha sauce (less if you think it’s necessary, but I promise you, it’s not too hot!)
- 1/2 cup chopped green onions, plus more for serving
- 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
- Cooking spray
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare a 9×9 baking pan by lining it with foil. Set aside.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the shells until about 2 minutes from being done. Drain, then add the shredded chicken and set aside.
- Meanwhile, melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Once melted, add flour and whisk until a paste forms. Slowly pour in milk, whisking constantly. Once the milk has been added and there are no clumps, cook until thickened, about 10 minutes, until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
- Add cheese to the sauce gradually, whisking as it melts. Season with salt, pepper, ginger, and Sriracha sauce. Mix and taste for seasonings. Adjust salt and/or pepper if necessary.
- Pour sauce over the chicken and pasta and mix gently to combine. Pour into prepared baking pan and top evenly with breadcrumbs. Spray top with cooking spray and put in the oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the cheese is bubbly.
- Serve immediately; garnish with chopped scallions and a little extra sriracha.