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Homemade Mac and cheese w/honey & garlic chicken tenders


Homemade Mac and cheese w/honey & garlic chicken tenders

If you love Applebee’s 4 cheese mac and cheese with honey pepper chicken, you absolutely have to try this homemade version that tastes even better!

INGREDIENTS

6 slices thick-cut bacon

SEASONED FLOUR:
2 cups all purpose flour
3 Tbsp paprika
1 1/2 Tbsp kosher salt
1 1/2 Tbsp dry mustard
1 1/2 Tbsp garlic powder
1 1/2 Tbsp onion powder
1 Tbsp seasoned salt
3/4 Tbsp black pepper
1/2 Tbsp celery seed
1/2 tsp dried ginger
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano

FRIED CHICKEN:
1 lb chicken tenders – trimmed of any excess fat
2 cups buttermilk

HONEY PEPPER SAUCE:
3/4 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup pineapple juice
3 Tbsp soy sauce
Juice of 1 lemon
4 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper – or less, to taste

4 CHEESE SAUCE AND PASTA:
1/2 stick butter – (4 Tbsp)
3 cloves garlic – minced
1 Anaheim pepper – diced (can substitute with jalapeno or poblano)
3 Tbsp all purpose flour
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup shredded Romano cheese
1/2 cup shredded Asiago cheese
1/4 tsp dried basil
Black pepper – to taste
Fresh parsley – for garnish
1 box dried cavatappi pasta (or other short cut pasta) – (1 lb)

INSTRUCTIONS

BACON:
Cook bacon in your preferred method, and set aside to cool.

SEASONED FLOUR:
Add all ingredients to a large resealable plastic bag and shake to combine.

HONEY PEPPER SAUCE:
Add all ingredients to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to LOW and simmer for 20 minutes, or until thickened slightly. Set aside to cool a bit.

FRIED CHICKEN:
Place chicken tenders in a large bowl and pour buttermilk into bowl. Turn chicken to coat each piece in buttermilk.
Let marinate while you prepare other things.
Add oil to large heavy bottomed pot and heat to 350 degrees F.
Shake excess buttermilk from chicken tender, then drop into the bag with the seasoned flour.
Shake gently to coat in flour. Repeat with remaining chicken tenders.
Add tenders, 2-3 at a time, to the hot oil and fry for several minutes per side, until dark golden brown and cooked through.
Remove from the oil and place on a wire cooling rack (with paper towels laying underneath to catch the excess grease). Repeat with remaining chicken.

4 CHEESE SAUCE AND PASTA:
While chicken is frying, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Add pasta and cook until al dente (according to package directions).
Drain pasta and drizzle with a bit of olive oil.
While pasta water is coming up to a boil, add butter to a saucepan and melt over MED-LOW heat.
Add garlic and diced pepper to the pan and saute for 2 minutes, until softened.
Add in flour and whisk to combine. Mixture will resemble very wet sand.
Pour in heavy cream while whisking, and whisk often for 5 minutes, or until thickened.
Sauce should coat the back of a spoon.
Add in cheeses, one at a time, and stir to melt.
Season with pepper and basil and stir to combine.
Toss cooked pasta with cheese sauce and add to serving bowl.
Toss fried chicken tenders with some of the honey pepper sauce, and place several chicken tenders on top of the mac and cheese.
Sprinkle with crumbled bacon, minced fresh parsley, and an optional drizzle of the honey pepper sauce.
Enjoy!