Grilled buffalo chicken mac and cheese sandwich

If you ask me, there are few things better than a warm and toasty sandwich or a bowl of ooey gooey mac and cheese. Both are delicious, filling, and supremely comforting. So why not combine them? Yes, I know, it probably sounds like carbohydrate overkill, layering pasta on top of bread, and I was a little bit apprehensive when I set about trying to come up with a good way to do so, but once I took a bite? Cheesy, carby, goodness. 

This sandwich is decidedly unhealthy, but, honestly, it's not really one you want to try to "healthify." Eat your veggies on the side, they don't belong here. Serve with a side of ranch, snap a pic, and eat this extremely indulgent sandwich with no regrets. You can always eat a salad later.

Here's what you need

It may seem overly complicated, but this recipe actually comes together relatively quickly. You'll need a few boneless, skinless chicken breasts, a good buffalo sauce, a little bit of honey, quality bread, lots of cheese, a small wedge of blue cheese, whole milk, dry mustard, paprika, nutmeg, butter, and flour for the cheese sauce, pasta, panko bread crumbs to add a little crunch to your chicken, your favorite ranch dressing, and maybe a little hot sauce to spice things up a bit. If you want to garnish with sliced green onions, you'll need those too. Want a few more details? You'll find a full ingredients list, along with step-by-step instructions, at the end of this article. 

Marinate the chicken

This might just be the simplest "homemade" marinade ever. All you need is some of your buffalo sauce and a smidge of honey to sweeten it up a bit. Though this recipe only calls for a quick marinate, the longer you leave it in the marinade in the refrigerator, the more flavorful the chicken will ultimately be, so leave it as long as you have time for.

Make a roux

A roux is a thickener made from equal parts fat and flour. For this recipe, you're going to make a roux out of butter and flour. Add the butter to the pot, let it melt and become foamy. Then, sprinkle the flour over the melted, foamy butter and whisk it well to get rid of any lumps. Keep whisking and let it cook for just about two minutes or so. You don't want it to get too dark, or it won't have as many thickening abilities.

Finish the cheese sauce

Slowly and carefully whisk in the milk. Add the mustard, paprika, and nutmeg. Whisk it all together and cook it over medium heat until it starts to thicken. Toss in the blue cheese and stir it until it melts all the way. Then add the other cheeses. Again, stir it all together until it's combined. Turn the heat down and let it hang out until you're ready to add the pasta.

Make the pasta

Because you're going to toast the assembled sandwich, you want to cook the pasta you're using to al dente. If you cook it for too long initially, it'll get mushy when you make your sammie. While this is a grilled mac and cheese sandwich, I chose not to use elbow macaroni for this mac and cheese. I wanted something that would hold the cheese sauce, but also fit better on the sandwich. Also, you may notice I'm making a full recipe of mac and cheese. You're definitely not going to need all that for sandwiches, so feel free to cut the recipe in half, however, I highly recommend making the full batch. It's also plenty good on its own.

Bake the chicken

It's time to fire up your oven — heat it to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Take the chicken out the fridge and bread it with a mixture of panko bread crumbs, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Make sure it gets well-coated so it gets crispy when you bake it. Throw it in the oven for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Slather it with some more buffalo sauce and set it aside until you're ready for it.

Assemble the sandwiches

Stir the rest of the buffalo sauce into your mac and cheese. Take two pieces of bread and set them on a cutting board. Add a swipe of ranch dressing, a pile of mac and cheese, a couple of slices of mozzarella, a dash or two of hot sauce, some sliced chicken, and the other piece of bread. Now it's ready to be toasted.

Toast the sandwiches

Pull out a pan to toast the sandwiches. Add a few pats of butter and let them melt. Place any sandwiches you want to toast into the pan. Press down to make sure everything melts together. Let it get all nice and toasty on one side and then flip it over to cook it until the other side is crunchy and golden brown. Now you're pretty much ready to eat.

Directions

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 45 minutes

Serves: 3-4

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 cups buffalo sauce, divided (add more if you like)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2/3 cup panko bread crumbs
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups of whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • Sprinkle of nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup of crumbled blue cheese
  • 2 cups shredded extra sharp cheddar
  • 2 cups shredded colby jack
  • 1 pound of pasta
  • 6-8 slices of bread
  • Ranch dressing
  • Mozzarella cheese slices
  • Sliced green onions, optional

Directions:

  1. Put the chicken, 2/3 of a cup of buffalo sauce, and the honey in a heavy-duty resealable bag. Knead it a little bit with your hands to mix. Place it in a plastic container and pop it in the fridge to marinate for at least one hour.
  2. Heat a large pot on the stove over medium heat. Add the butter and let it melt. Whisk in the flour and let it cook for about two minutes. Slowly and carefully whisk in the milk. Add the seasonings and a little bit of salt and pepper. Bring it to just under a boil, until it begins to thicken. Then add the blue cheese and stir it well to make sure it melts completely. Add the cheddar and colby jack and again stir it well to make sure it melts and the flavors combine. Turn the heat way down and let it sit.
  3. Bring a pot of water to boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, according to package directions (I cooked mine for 10 minutes). Drain well and then add it to the cheese sauce. Stir in 1/2 cup of buffalo sauce.
  4. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Take the chicken out of the fridge and remove from the marinade. Mix the panko, salt, and pepper in the container and dredge the chicken in the mixture. Top with additional buffalo sauce. Place the chicken on a baking sheet and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Take it out of the oven and let it sit for a couple minutes.
  5. Slice the chicken.
  6. Take a pan out and heat it on the stove over medium heat. Add a bit of butter and let it melt or, alternatively, butter one side of each slice of bread. Put some ranch dressing on each slice of bread. Top that with mac and cheese, chicken, 1-2 slices of mozzarella, even more buffalo sauce, and the other slice of bread. Cook until crunchy, golden, and toasty, about 5 minutes on each side.
  7. Serve sandwiches with a side of ranch for dipping and a sprinkle of green onions.