Chicken Mac is a casserole that blends chicken, vegetables, macaroni and a thick sauce. It is sprinkled with parmisan cheese before baking. The serving portions of the casserole are topped with shredded cheddar cheese. It does not contain a lot of meat but it is a very satisfying one pot meal.
Casserole recipes are endless in number. They can make use of leftovers and small amounts of expensive meats or other ingredients. Once put together you can spend time doing other things while they bake. They can be made ahead and frozen for quick weeknight meals.
This recipe will serve 4 to 6 depending on the size of the portions. The recipe can be doubled.
- 1 large chicken breast, boned and skinless
- 1/3 cup of white or yellow onion, diced
- 1/3 cup of celery, sliced thin
- 1/3 cup of carrots, sliced thin
- 2 tablespoons of butter, divided
- 3 to 4 teaspoons of chicken bouillon, heaping
- 1 teaspoon of dry tarragon, heaping
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- 3 cups of water
- ¼ to 1/3 cup of all-purpose flour, depending on how thick you want it
- 1 cup of cool tap water
- 1 box of cheap Mac and Cheese, about 8 oz.
In my opinion skinless, boneless chicken breasts have only slightly more flavor than tofu (ick!). So you need to add flavor to them while cooking. You can do this by cooking the chicken breast slowly in a liquid that contains butter and other good flavors.
Prepare the vegetables. You can use more than the amounts given. Heat a tablespoon of butter in a large deep pan over medium high heat. When it has melted stir in the onion, celery and carrots. Add more butter if need be. Sprinkle the vegetables with a pinch each of salt and black pepper. Stir and cook the vegetables until the onion is almost transparent.
Add the three cups of water, the bouillon, the tarragon and another tablespoon of butter. Place the chicken breast in the pot and cover tightly. Lower the heat to medium and simmer. Turn the chicken breast at least once while cooking. Cook until the chicken is completely done. Remove the cooked chicken breast and cut it into cubes. Mix the cubed chicken back into the pot.
Mix the flour and tap water together with a whisk until smooth. Pour slowly into the simmering chicken and vegetable mixture, stirring all the time. Continue to stir until the mixture in the pot has thickened. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
Turn on the oven to 350 degree F.
Cook the macaroni in boiling salted water in a large pan until it is almost tender. Remove the macaroni and mix it into the pan containing the chicken and vegetables. Mix in the dry sauce mix that came with the package of Mac and Cheese. Stir well. Taste and adjust seasonings. Pour the mixture into a buttered casserole dish and smooth the top. Sprinkle the top with grated parmisan cheese or your favorite topping.
Bake the casserole at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow it to stand about 10 minutes before serving.
Pass a bowl of shredded cheddar cheese at the table. Serve the casserole along with tomato wedges or a salad and fruit pie.
Other vegetables can be added along with the three called for in the recipe. About a cup or so of any type of leftover, frozen or canned and drained vegetable. Add along with the 3 cups of water before adding the meat.
As with any casserole recipe other meats can be used. Left over chicken thighs or other parts would work. Sliced hot dogs or smoked sausages along with some tomato chunks, corn and green pepper. Ground beef or diced ham along with peas or mixed vegetables. Turkey can be used instead of chicken. Canned tuna or salmon would be good along with peas and more carrots.
I really like tarragon in chicken dishes but not everyone does. You can use poultry seasoning or sage instead.
Another way to thicken sauces is to mash room temperature butter into flour and then stir the crumbles into the simmering liquid. This method adds more butter to the recipe than thickening with a flour and water mixture.
You can add a can of condensed cream soup instead of making your own sauce. Tomato with beef, hot dogs or smoked sausage. Cream of chicken, celery or mushroom with ham or fish. Cheese soup would be good with beef, tomatoes and peppers. If you do use the soup you can omit the flour and water mixture in the recipe.
Different toppings can be fun. Crushed crackers or crushed corn flakes mixed with melted butter. Any type of dry bread that has been cubed and toasted in melted butter.