Chicago has better food. THERE. I wrote it. Be outraged. I lived in Chicago for five years and seriously couldn’t get enough of the food scene. My husband and I had some of our best dates in Chicago restaurants—like Fork (where we had our rehearsal dinner), Flacos Tacos, and Art of Pizza where we bought slices of deep-dish pizza as big as our faces for less than $4. But for some reason, nothing—and I mean nothing—could beat the buffalo chicken mac and cheese at Brehon Pub.
My husband and his best friend loved grabbing beers and Brehon’s buffalo chicken mac after work on a regular basis. I mean, he liked this place so much, he even spent part of his bachelor party there. When we made the decision to move to New York City, our hearts slightly broke over having to actually leave this place. It was the place we loved to hang out with our friends. It was home to some of the best buffalo chicken macaroni and cheese.
Weeks into living in Brooklyn, we craved creamy buffalo chicken mac. So…we tried replicating it.
We failed. We tried again. We failed again.
I honestly am not sure how many times we’ve tried recreating this recipe, because, after every single attempt, nothing could compare to Brehon Pub. It wasn’t until we bought The Mac + Cheese Cookbook that we were able to see any kind of success.
It’s all about the Mac Sauce
The trick to making the best homemade mac and cheese is creating a good mac sauce. Mac sauce is made by simply making a thick white cream sauce, then adding cheese.
The recipe for mac sauce in The Mac + Cheese Cookbook is good, but it makes way too much sauce for one recipe. So I played around with the ratios to make a buffalo chicken mac and cheese that actually made sense for a simple dinner for four.
I didn’t want to make fried chicken
Brehon’s take on this dish included deep-fried buffalo chicken tenders, which were diced and placed on top of a creamy, sharp cheddar mac and cheese. While delicious, deep frying chicken for a weeknight dinner really isn’t in my wheelhouse. Yes, I did try throwing frozen breaded buffalo tenders on top like Brehon’s, but it wasn’t nearly as good.
Instead, I find the tastiest way to enjoy a buffalo mac is by simply mixing some cooked chicken strips and buffalo sauce into the skillet with the mac, top it with cheese, then broil it for a few minutes. Broiling is not mandatory for eating the buffalo mac and cheese, but it’s my favorite way to make it.
No, this recipe is nothing like Brehon Pub, this is just the version that I like to make. I would tell you to fly out to Chicago to have the real thing—in *ahem* the city with the best restaurant in the America and one of the best in the world—but sadly, it seems Brehon Pub doesn’t have the buffalo chicken mac and cheese on the menu anymore. Who knows, maybe me raving about it in this blog post will change their mind.
Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese
- 2 cups dried macaroni
- 1/2 cup butter + 1/2 tablespoon
- 1 lb chicken tenderloins
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups 2% milk
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 8 oz. block of sharp cheddar cheese shredded (about 2 cups)
- 1/3 cup hot sauce
- In a medium-sized pot, boil water. Cook the macaroni, then drain.
- Warm a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Melt the extra 1/2 tablespoon of butter, then add the chicken. Cook until the chicken is no longer pink in the middle—about 5 minutes. Remove the chicken to a plate.
- Melt the 1/2 cup butter (1 stick) in the cast-iron skillet. Once melted, slowly sprinkle in the all-purpose flour. Whisk until the flour has dissolved—about 2 minutes.
- Slowly pour in the milk 1/4 cup at a time, whisking continuously. The sauce will start to thicken, and whisking it will keep it from burning.
- Once all the milk has been incorporated, sprinkle in the salt, then 1 1/2 cups of the shredded cheese. Whisk until the cheese has fully melted.
- Add in the cooked macaroni, chicken, and buffalo sauce. Stir to combine.
- Turn on the broiler. Sprinkle the other 1/2 cup shredded cheese on top of the buffalo chicken mac and cheese, then broil for 5 minutes. Serve immediately.