Friday, February 19, 2016

New Orleans Mac & Cheese with Cajun Shrimp Scampi

New Orleans Macaroni & Cheese with Cajun Shrimp Scampi 

New Orleans Mac N Cheese

My New Orleans Macaroni and Cheese with savory Cajun Shrimp Scampi is loaded with  flavors inspired by a few country's.  Primarily this dish is a fusion of deep Louisiana and Italy.  Two of my fav's!  The New Orleans Mac N Cheese is creamy, cheesy and rich and the Cajun Shrimp Scampi is a savory concoction that actually mixes well with the Mac N Cheese.

A few notes:  The Cajun Shrimp Scampi is a bit of an art.  Putting the entire dish together can require a great deal of muli-tasking.  But to keep it less stressful, I laid it out below with making the Cajun Shrimp Scampi before starting on the New Orleans Mac N Cheese. As an option, you can skip the Scampi sauce and just cook the shrimp in a skillet with Cayenne, Paprika and salt and pepper.

As with most dishes, taste it often during the making process and adjust the seasonings accordingly.

OK here goes!

Cajun Shrimp Scampi

You'll need:

About 1 pound of medium shrimp (I used small in the picture because I had some handy) Peeled.
About 1 tbl spn butter
2 tbl spns diced white onion
1/2 tbl spn minced Garlic (pronounced Gaaahlick - Kidding)
1 tbl spn Paprika
1/2 tsp Cayenne (more if you like it hotter)
1/3 cup white wine (substitute a cooking wine if you wish)

Instructions for Cajun Shrimp Scampi:

Place the shrimp in a bowl and add a dash of salt and pepper and stir.  Set aside.  In a medium skillet over medium heat, melt the butter.  Add the onion, garlic and stir.  Add the Paprika, Cayenne and a dash of salt and pepper.  Saute for a bout 3 to 5 minutes.  Add the white wine and stir.  Slowly bring to a boil and lower heat.  Stir very regularly.  After 3 minutes or so, take a small taste and see if it needs salt or Cayenne.  You're just tasting for the seasoning, Its not going to taste wonderful just yet.  If you're OK with the seasoning, let it continue to cook until there is only 2 or 3 table spoons of liquid left then add in the shrimp.  Cook for about 3 minutes or until the shrimp are just done.  Pour everything in a bowl and set aside.

New Orleans Mac N Cheese:

You'll need:

About 2.5 cups of uncooked macaroni noodles.
1/2 pound cooked sausage - sliced.  Whatever your fav is (Optional)
2 tbl spns butter
2 to 3 cups milk
1/4 cup diced white onion
1/2 cup diced Bell Peppers (I like Red and Green)
2 tbl spn flour
1 tbl spn Garlic Powder
1 tbl spoon Paprika
1 tbl spn dried Oregano
1 tbl spn dried Basil
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 tsp Cayenne (more or less to your taste and toleration of heat)
1 cup of grated Sharp Cheddar or Mix in some Italian grated cheeses.  Your call.

Instructions for New Orleans Macaroni and Cheese:

Preheat oven to 350

Place the macaroni noodles in a medium pot and cover with water at least an inch above the noodles.  Heat using medium high heat to boil.
You're going to make a light roux.  In a large skillet (preferably an oven proof skillet) melt 1 tbl spn of butter.  Add the onion and bell peppers and saute for about 2 minutes, maybe 3.  Whatever feels good.  Add the other tbl spn of butter and let it melt.  Add the flour and stir.  If it's a little lumpy it's ok.  Cook the roux, stiring continuously for 4 or 5 minutes.

Add 1 cup of milk to the roux, stir....incorporate it very well.  Add another cup of milk.  You don't want it to be too thick at this point.  Stir in all of the seasonings one at a time.....taste. Adjust accordingly.  Remember you will might add more milk and then the cheese (Cheese adds salt) so keep this in mind when deciding how much more seasoning you need to add.  The noodles will absorb some of that flavor.

It should look similar to this, maybe a tad thinner before adding the cheese.  This is an older picture.

At this point we want the sauce to be very thin.  So add more milk if necessary.  Once you like the taste, add the cheese and stir.  Once the cheese is melted taste....adjust.  We still don't want it thick.  We want a creamy Mac N Cheese sauce right?  Add milk if necessary, if it's too thick.

Check the macaroni noodles.  Once al dente, add them to the cheese sauce and stir well.  If some of the water gets in there its OK.  Stir well and taste.  Add the sausage. Stir.  Taste.  Add the Cajun Shrimp Scampi and all of the juices.  Stir yet again.  Taste yet again.  Adjust yet again.  Sprinkle Paprika on top.  I also like to sprinkle Basil on the top - I'm a Basil freak.

Bake for about 10 minutes and remove.  Let set 5 minutes before diving in.