This Mac & Cheese is far from average and ordinary Mac. The addition of Chicken of the Woods mushroom makes this satisfying and hearty dish far more than a side. It is a fabulous main course.
I recently made this after finding a beautiful 7 lb Chicken. Laetiporus can quickly grow hard, woody and unsuitable for consumption. But almost the entire specimen was tender and perfect for eating. I experimented by adding our abundance of this fungus to several recipes and this one turned out to be my favorite.
This is a Southern style baked macaroni dressed up with a couple of delicious additions. I always use a bit of hard cheese in my Mac. For this recipe I used more than usual, because the sharp flavor of Pecorino or Parmesan cheese compliments the mildly flavored Chicken of the Woods perfectly. I was tempted to make this using only hard cheeses and go for much bolder flavor. But, I kept it kid friendly by using mostly cheddar and the kids did love it. We had this for dinner with grilled chicken wings and my oldest kid, that had no idea he was eating Laetiporus in his pasta, said that he liked the chicken both ways.
- 10 ounces pasta, elbow or penne
- 3 cups Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus sp) cut into strips the size of the pasta
- 1 cup fresh or frozen sweet green peas
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1/2 cup half and half
- 2 cups grated sharp cheddar
- 1 cup grated Pecorino, Asisgo or Parmesan
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- Cut chicken of the woods into bite sized strips. Saute the strips in butter or olive oil until they start to brown a bit on the edges.
- Cook pasta until al dente
- For the sauce:
- Combine 2 TBS butter and 1TBS flour and cook over medium heat for 1 minute stirring frequently.
- Add milk slowly to the flour and butter with stirring.
- Simmer for 2-3 minutes.
- Add, 1/2 cup grated Pecorino brother hard cheese, salt and nutmeg.
- Stir until melted and combined.
- Pour sauce over cooked pasta and stir to immerse.
- Assemble in a lightly greased casserole dish by layering: 1/2 of the pasta, 1/2 grated cheddar, Chicken of the Woods, pasta, remaining cheddar.
- Beat 1 egg with the half and half and pour over the casserole. If egg mixture pools, use a butter knife to work it down into the pasta.
- Top with remaining Pecirino/hard cheese, bread crumbs and paprika.
- Bake lightly covered with foil at 375°F for 20 minutes, then uncovered for 15 more minutes.
- Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.