About a month ago, I had a terrible craving for mac ‘n’ cheese. Recipes were floating around all over the food blog circuit and I kept seeing it on TV. I just couldn’t seem to get away from it! So I attempted to whip some together, after work one day, and failed…pretty miserably. I was rushed and I think I just wanted it too badly. What I got was a decent tasting pasta dish, but it was not mac ‘n’ cheese, it was not ooey gooey and awesome, it was a little dry and just okay. My craving was not satisfied. I tried again last week, and I hit a home run. I still didn’t really plan ahead so I had to work with what I had on hand…a great mixture of three cheeses, some wine, and frozen shrimp. This is not a traditional, homey mac ‘n’ cheese, it’s rather gourmet and definitely more for the foodie crowd, so mac ‘n’ cheese traditionalists should beware. My hubby and I absolutely loved it and I can’t wait to make another batch.
A few of your fave Cheeses (I used Rosey Goat, Cheddar, and Parm)
Short-Cut Pasta (like elbows, penne, etc. I used whole wheat)
Shrimp (Frozen or Fresh)
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
First, set a large pot of water to boil for your pasta. Then sautee enough shrimp to suit your fancy, in a large heated skillet. Season with salt and pepper and cook until just pink.
While the shrimp cooks, preheat your broiler and finely chop the onion and garlic. You can also start bringing a large pot of water to boil for the pasta. When the water boils, add the pasta and cook until al dente (still a little firm).
When the shrimp is cooked through, remove from the pan and set aside. In the same pan, melt a couple tablespoons of butter and add the onions and garlic.
Cook until softened and sprinkle in a couple tablespoons of flour. Season with salt and pepper and mix well, until flour is smooth.
Allow the roux to cook out for a few minutes. While it does so, shred up a heaping pile of cheese.
At this point, your shrimp should be cool enough to handle, and you can cut them up into bite size pieces (you can also leave them whole, I just think this dish eats better with the shrimp in smaller pieces).
When the roux has darkened just a tad in color and no longer tastes pasty, you can begin adding liquid. I started by adding in the wine.
Stir rapidly until everything smooths out and allow to come to a boil. The alcohol must be cooked out before you add the milk, or the sauce will curdle.
Then add milk until sauce reaches desired amount and consistency. Remember you want enough to coat all of your pasta and a little extra.
Season with salt and pepper, add a dijon mustard to taste, and just a touch of nutmeg, bring to a boil.
Next stir in all but a few tablespoons of the cheese and continue stirring until melted and completely incorporated.
At this point, you should check your pasta for doneness, strain it when it’s ready, and return it to the pot. Then stir your shrimp into the cheese sauce.
Pour the sauce into the pot of pasta and gently stir until every noodle is coated (note how I’m using two different pastas, this is not technique my friends, this is lack of planning…still tastes good though).
Add more seasoning if necessary, transfer to a baking dish, sprinkle with the remaining cheese, and pop into the broiler.
Remove from the broiler when the top is brown and bubbly.
Serve it up and indulge in this cheesy delight.