Grilled Chicken & Bacon & Mac 'n Cheese
by Niki W.
- 6 slices good-quality smoky bacon (such as applewood-smoked)
- salt and pepper on each layer
- 1 lb whole wheat short-cut pasta
- 2 pieces skinless, boneless chicken breast, lightly pounded
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 4 tbsp butter
- 1 large onion quartered lengthwise, thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp flour
- 1/2 cup apple cider or chicken stock
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
- freshly grated nutmeg to taste
- 1 1/2 cups shredded extra-sharp white cheddar cheese
- 1 cup shredded gruyere cheese
- chopped flat-leaf parsley or celery greens, for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 375.
- Arrange the bacon on a slotted broiler pan or on a rack placed over a baking sheet and bake until crisp, about 15 minutes. Chop and reserve.
- Switch on the broiler and position the rack in the center of the oven.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil, salt it, add the pasta and cook 1 minute less than the instructions indicate, or until just shy of al dente. Drain and return to the pot.
- While the pasta is boiling, heat a grill pan or cast-iron griddle over medium-high heat. Drizzle the chicken with olive oil to coat lightly, then season evenly with paprika, salt and pepper. Grill the chicken for about 10 minutes, turning occasionally.
- Transfer to a cutting board and half the pieces lengthwise, then thinly slice crosswise.
- While the chicken cooks, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until light golden and very soft, 15 to 20 minutes.
- Sprinkle with flour and stir for 1 minute. Whisk in the cider (or stock), then the milk. Bring to a boil and cook, whisking, until the sauce coats the back of a spoon, 3 to 4 minutes.
- Add the thyme and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir in the cheeses until melted. Add the chicken, bacon and sauce to the pasta and transfer to a casserole. Broil until bubbling and browned, about 5 minutes.
- Garnish with the parsley (or celery greens).
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