Foster's Creamy Mac, Chicken, and Cheese

Whitney's been bugging me about making a guest post for a while now. Last night she finally gave me the permissions to do so, so without any further excuses, here I am!

Whitney recently gifted me with Sara Foster's Fresh Every Day cookbook. This past Tuesday evening, she had some errands to run, so I offered to cook, and was excited to try something from my new cookbook! Most of the dinner meals in the book are a bit intimidating for the amateur cook, but the Creamy Mac, Chicken, and Cheese looked so good that I psyched myself up to try it. You can find the original recipe here; I've pasted it below with my notes.

Serves 8 to 10
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for buttering the baking dish
½ pound short, bite-size pasta such as penne, ziti, shells, bow ties, or orecchiette We used shells - worked great!
2 teaspoons sea salt, plus more to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream Turns out those little cartons only have 1 cup, so that's what I used! Turned out fine still.
3½ cups cooked shredded chicken (from 3½ to 4-pound roasted chicken)
I didn't happen to have a roasted chicken lying around (give me a break, Sara), so I just picked up some raw chicken breast tenders, sliced them up, and cooked them in a pan. I also considered one of those grocery store rotisserie chickens.
2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (about 8 ounces)
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 1½ ounces)
8 ounces fresh spinach, washed, stems removed, and drained (about 4 cups)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram leaves or 2 teaspoons dried
1 to 2 tablespoons hot sauce (Tabasco or Texas Pete) Whitney despises all things spicy, so I left this out to be safe.
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.
I just used the 9x9 dish I had. I hate measuring, so I just sort of fudged all the ingredient amounts down a little bit, and it ended up fitting mostly.
2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the pasta, stir, and cook until al dente. Drain in a colander and transfer the pasta to a large bowl. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and toss to coat.
3. Melt the butter with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute longer, stirring constantly so the garlic doesn’t brown.
4. Stir in the milk and cream, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is reduced by half and is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 20 minutes.
I had realized only after starting to cook this that I had picked a recipe from the "things that take a really long time to prepare" section of the book, so I figured I would try to speed up this step by boiling the mixture, covered, and walking away. Oops. After cleaning up that mess, I still didn't feel like simmering it all the way, so my impatience combined with the reduced amount of cream led to a sauce that was thinner than it should have been. I didn't really mind, but this was the main thing Whitney mentioned for improvement next time.
5. Remove the sauce from the heat and add the chicken, Cheddar, Parmesan, spinach, marjoram, hot sauce, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Stir until the cheeses have melted and the spinach is wilted. Pour into the bowl with the pasta and toss to coat the pasta with the sauce. Taste for salt and pepper and season with more to taste.
Couldn't believe that much spinach was going to fit in there, but after waiting for it to wilt a bit, it mixed in well.
6. Transfer the pasta to the prepared baking dish, scraping all the sauce out of the bowl with a rubber spatula, and bake for about 45 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling around the edges and the pasta is slightly brown on top. Let the pasta rest for about 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm.
Because we were already so hungry, I took out some to eat before it went in the oven, and it was fine. The oven just got everything hot and looking good, and let all the stuff blend and absorb.

The chef with his creation.

Close up.

Served with white wine (in front of the TV, of course!)

All in all, a great meal - tasty and hearty, and the spinach is a nice touch. I would cook this again, although I would probably try to find more than two people to eat it!


  1. I can't believe you don't measure ingredients (or scale down accordingly when reducing the recipe)....don't you and your family LOVE math or something? Remind me to never let you help at Thanksgiving. :)

    PS your nephew says hi. I assume him screaming and trying to punch my face is his way of saying "say hi to Uncle Patrick for me, dad!"

  2. You're right, I'll have to stop by Walmart and pick up some of those measuring cups that come in 13ths.