Brussels sprouts often get a bad rap, and I’m not really sure why. Whoever thinks they don’t like brussels sprouts just hasn’t had them cooked the right way– roasted to caramelized perfection, shredded and served fresh in a crisp salad… or covered with bacon and cheese.
Even my dog likes brussels. Have you ever seen brussels sprouts sold on the stalk? A big, long stalk with the little brussels nubs still attached? Well, they look really cool so I bought one one day. After cutting all the brussels off the stalk, I threw the stalk to the begging dog, thinking it was a somewhat cruel, albeit funny, joke. Well the joke was on me because he took that stalk, started chewing on it, and ate the entire thing! And this is not a dog who eats shoes, mud, and everything you put in front of him. He’s somewhat picky about what he’ll consume, especially when it comes to vegetables. But apparently, he loves brussels sprouts. Or… brussels sprouts stalks, at least.
So this mac and cheese… it’s filled with delicious things like chicken and bacon and cheese… and brussels! Brussels, bacon and cheese go together like peanut butter, jelly and Wonderbread. A menage a trois made in heaven. So why not add in some pasta for good measure? And some chicken for the meatarian, who proclaimed this his new favorite pasta. Success!
Chicken, Bacon and Brussels Sprout Mac and Cheese
(adapted from Rachael Ray)
- 2 pints or 1 large stalk Brussels sprouts
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 lb center-cut bacon, chopped
- 1 lb chicken breast tenderloins, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 3 tbsp butter
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tbsp flour
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 3 cups whole milk
- Ground nutmeg, to taste
- Salt & pepper, to taste
- 1 lb penne, rotini or other short pasta
- 1 cup shredded sharp white cheddar cheese, divided
- 1 cup shredded swiss cheese, divided
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Remove the stems from brussels sprouts. Shred the sprouts (using a mandolin or food processor) OR separate into individual leaves. (The original recipe called for separating the leaves, but I found shredding to be much quicker.) Place in a large bowl.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Par-boil the leaves/shredded sprouts for 2 minutes to tender crisp. Drain and cool, pressing out as much water as possible. Add more water to fill the pot back up for the pasta and return to a boil.
Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the bacon and brown; remove and drain. Add the chicken to the pan and saute in the bacon fat until cooked through. Remove and set aside. Add the butter to the pan and melt. Add the onion and garlic, and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in wine to deglaze, then add in the stock and milk. Cook until the sauce thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low.
Meanwhile, boil the pasta for 5-6 minutes to just shy of al dente, and drain.
Stir two-thirds of the cheeses into the sauce. Drain the pasta, then toss with the Brussels sprouts, bacon, chicken and sauce and pour into a baking dish. Top with the remaining cheese and heat through in the oven, about 10-12 minutes.
Our leftovers are long gone, but I’m still thinking about this dish. If you think you don’t like brussels sprouts, this mac may just change your mind. Come on, try it!