Need a southern hug? This Spicy Chicken & Mac-N-Cheese will fill the need. Cavatappi in a cheesy sauce baked with buttery breadcrumbs and topped with a spicy chicken fillet.
I’m adulting today with a big ole bowl of Spicy Chicken & Mac-N-Cheese. My go to when I need a little extra love is mac-n-cheese. I’m flexing my adult muscles by adding some spice.
Let’s talk heat for a second. Heat should be interesting. When it hits the back of the throat you should say, “Oh! Okay!” Not, “What the f**k!” The spiciness in this dish is warm throughout but it lets the other flavors have a chance to come out and play. If you are a fan of Nashville hot, you will want to go a bit heavier on the cayenne.
Skinless Chicken Breast:
I am having an internal argument with myself over this one, because I’m going skinless. Everyone knows if you want a really great spicy hot chicken you need to fry it with the skin, because that’s what holds all that spicy flavor around the chicken. False! You can get a nice spicy chicken without the skin. How about injecting the spice into the chicken instead of wrapping it around it? Let the chicken marinade overnight filling the meat with that warm spicy heat.
No spicy chicken is complete without a spicy oil. Don’t try it without, it can’t be done. I keep spicy oil on hand at all times. I add red pepper flakes and a tablespoon of cayenne-based seasoning* to 2 cups of olive oil and let it sit. Then when I have a recipe that I want to add some heat to all those glorious flavors have combined into a explosion of fiery notes.
*I love 𝘾𝙚𝙙𝙖𝙧 𝙊𝙖𝙠 𝙁𝙖𝙧𝙢𝙨 𝘾𝙖𝙟𝙪𝙣 𝙎𝙚𝙖𝙨𝙤𝙣𝙞𝙣𝙜 because it already has the sugars, paprika, garlic, and cayenne seasonings (along with a handful of other deliciousness) that most hot chicken oils require. It’s a one and done process! Can’t get easy than that!
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- 4 chicken breasts, skinless & boneless
- 2 – 4 tablespoons cayenne Seasoning*, divided
- 1/4 cup dill pickle brine
- 1 cup milk
- 2 cups plain breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 tablespoon butter, melted
- Spicy Oil, (See my recipe above)
- 1 pound cavatappi pasta
- 1/4 cup butter, divided
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup milk
- 4 ounces Velveeta
- 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1½ teaspoons smoked salt seasoning*
- Dash of habanero hot pepper sauce
When ready to cook, take the chicken out of the refrigerator. In a flat bottom medium bowl whisk the milk, dill pickle brine, and hot sauce until combined.
In another flat bottom medium bowl stir together the breadcrumbs, flour, and 1 -2 tablespoons cayenne seasoning. Start with 1 tablespoon. You can always add more. Set half of the breadcrumb mixture aside for later.
Dip the chicken in the milk mixture covering the pieces fully. Arrange the chicken in a baking dish.
Spoon the breadcrumbs over the top of the chicken using the back of the spoon to press then crumbs into the top and sides of the chicken.
Generously drizzle the spicy oil over and down the chicken coating the pieces. Bake at 375°F for 40 minutes. The chicken will be tender, and the spicy oil should keep the top from burning. Keep a watchful eye on the chicken, however. If you see the breadcrumbs start to cook to quickly add more spicy oil.
Meanwhile, fill a 5-quart pot with lightly salted water and bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in the macaroni and return to a boil. Cook the pasta uncovered for7- 8 minutes stirring occasionally. Drain.
Melt the butter in the pot over medium heat. Return the pasta to the pot. Stir in the flour evenly distributing the flour throughout.
Add the milk and Velveeta. Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently. Cook and stir until the mixture has thickened, about 5-8 minutes.
Stir in the and cheddar cheese, salt and hot pepper sauce. Stirring until the cheese has melted in. Transfer to an oven safe baking dish.
Add the melted butter to the reserved breadcrumbs and mix. Sprinkle over the mac-n-cheese and place under a boiler for 5 minutes, or until the topping is a golden brown. Top with the hot chicken. Garnish with parsley (optional).