Monday, May 19, 2014

Chicken Spaghetti

Chicken spaghetti is a classic Texas dish of spaghetti, creamy cheese sauce, shredded chicken, tomatoes, and chiles combined and baked into a big dish of comfort food. Some Texans reach for canned cream soups to make theirs but a fresh made sauce is simple, healthier, and much tastier! This version kicks it up a notch by blackening the tomatoes, chiles, onions, and garlic prior to baking and is our favorite to date!

I can't believe I've been blogging for 4 years and have yet to share a chicken spaghetti recipe! In Texas, this is the dish you bring to a church potluck dinner. Or to a family who recently brought home a new baby, or to someone recovering from surgery. This is the dish you make when you want to invite a boatload of good friends over and you need to serve something easy, comforting, and universally likeable.

If you've never had it before, or if you've never had a version that didn't use canned condensed soup, give this version a shot! I think you'll soon find it in your regular rotation of favorite meals. We fought over the leftovers at our house!

Chicken Spaghetti
8 ounces spaghetti
2 cups grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
2 jalapenos, stemmed, seeded, and halved lengthwise
4 cloves garlic, left whole
1/2 yellow onion
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 cups whole milk, plus more if needed
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnishing
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
salt and pepper
4 cups shredded cooked chicken

Lightly spray a 9x13 inch baking dish and line a baking sheet with foil. Set both aside.

Cook the spaghetti according to the package directions. Drain, rinse, and place in the prepared baking dish.

Meanwhile, turn the broiler on high and adjust the top rack to be 6 inches under the heating element. Place the grape tomatoes (skin side up), jalapenos (skin side up), garlic cloves, and onion on the prepared baking sheet. Broil for 5-7 minutes or until the vegetables are softened and beginning to blacken. Remove from the oven and, when cool enough to handle, dice the tomatoes, jalapenos, garlic, and onion.

Turn the oven temperature down to 350.

In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Whisk in the flour until well combined and slightly browned, about 30 seconds. Slowly pour in the milk and cook, whisking often, until the sauce thickens, about 3-5 minutes. If it gets too thick, add a pinch of milk.

Once the sauce thickens, turn off the heat and slowly stir in 1 cup of cheddar and 1 cup of Monterey Jack, a little at a time, until melted and well incorporated into the sauce. Once smooth, stir in the chopped vegetables, cumin, cayenne, cilantro, lime juice, shredded chicken, salt, and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.

Pour into the baking dish over top of the cooked spaghetti and combine well (tongs are especially helpful for this step). Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup cheddar and 1 cup Monterey Jack over top.

Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until brown and bubbling. Garnish with cilantro before serving.

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