Gas station chicken and Blue Box

All across the South there are gas stations that hide a delicious secret. The first clue appears when you drive up and notice scores of people exiting the building with jaunty yellow boxes. You get close to the door and smell that smell. Fried chicken.

What! Yes, ma’am. You pass the check-out counter. Wind your way through the peanut butter crackers and Slim Jim’s. Take a turn at the motor oil. And there it is.  The fried chicken station.  Generally, womaned by a lady wearing a hair net and plastic gloves. Do you want a thigh or a leg? Tenders? A nice buttery biscuit to go with them? Ranch or BBQ sauce for dipping? Right into the yellow box lined with wax paper.

Nashville has a lot to offer on the food scene and 95 percent of the time I’m on the hunt for the best authentic taco or a beautiful bowl of pho. But last week I just needed some gas station chicken and Blue Box.

And, I couldn’t wait. While the macaroni cooked I had to dig into that chicken. So crunchy and tender.

Now, here’s the thing. A while back Kraft changed its recipe for the Blue Box and just ruined it. They replaced all the chemical dyes with natural products and the Blue Box lost all its super cheesy taste.

However, if you look for a house brand and check the ingredients, the dyes are still there. So be sharp about your selection.

Then, do not follow the directions on the back of the box. What you want to do is to add a lot of butter to the cooked and drained macaroni. When the butter’s melted add the cheese powder and mix it in before adding the whole milk. And just a wee bit of milk. That way the mac and cheese is cheesier.

Yes, cheese powder. It’s not cheese…and yet.

And at the end, you have a perfect low-brow, soul-satisfying meal. It’s not good for you. But it’s good for the soul and sometimes that’s just the ticket.

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