Recipe 73: Shrimp, Feta, and Fresh Herb Mac and Cheese

Happy belated V-Day, Weekly Mackers! It’s been a tradition between the hubz and I to have a surf and turf for V-Day since our first V-Day together. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but I adore seafood, so any chance I get to cook with it is fine by me. And using fresh herbs this time of year really wakes up the senses, brings you back to when things were actually growing.

Shrimp, Feta, and Fresh Herb Mac and Cheese – from Annie’s Eats

INGREDIENTS
1 lb. pasta shapes (I used corn elbows)
1 lb. raw shrimp (31-40 ct.), peeled and deveined, cut in half if desired (I so desired)
10 oz. feta cheese, crumbled and divided
Zest of 1 lemon, divided
½ cup Panko breadcrumbs
2 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped, divided (I used 1/4oz)
5 tbsp. butter, divided (mine was salted, I don’t think it makes a difference)
4 tbsp. all-purpose flour (mine was Pamela’s gluten-free flour blend)
3 cups milk (mine was skim)
2 tbsp. fresh dill, chopped (I used 1/4oz)
8 oz. Gruyere cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
½ tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the pasta until al dente according to the package directions. Drain well; set aside. Add the raw shrimp to the warm pasta and toss together. The heat from the pasta will partially cook the shrimp.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400˚ F. In a small bowl, combine a handful of the feta, a pinch of the lemon zest, the panko, 2 teaspoons of the parsley and 1 tablespoon of the butter, melted. Toss with a fork to combine; set aside.

In a medium saucepan, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat. Once the butter is melted, whisk in the flour to form a paste. Cook 1-2 minutes, whisking constantly, until light golden brown. Whisk in the milk. Continue to heat the mixture, stirring frequently, until it bubbles and thickens, about 5 minutes. As soon as the sauce has thickened, remove from the heat and stir in the remaining feta, Gruyere, remaining parsley, remaining lemon zest, dill, salt and pepper. Pour the mixture over the pasta and shrimp; toss well to coat.

Transfer the mixture to a lightly greased 2½ or 3-quart baking dish. Sprinkle the breadcrumb-feta mixture evenly over the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until lightly browned and bubbling. Remove from the oven and let cool 5-10 minutes before serving.

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VERDICT: 3/5

Kinda disappointed with this one, won’t lie. Maybe it’s from cutting the shrimp in half, but they got kind of tough and overcooked. I would have used fine breadcrumbs instead of panko (or maybe a different brand of panko; we had not our usual brand in the house), and a little more of them. The hubz didn’t like it, saying “I don’t think I like the idea of lemon and cheese.” I’ll admit, the lemon was a bit overwhelming as a flavor, drowning out even the wonderful fresh dill; all I could taste was feta and lemon. It wasn’t bad by any stretch, but it was a lot of work only to be somewhat let down by it. Bummer.


Recipe 72: Creamy Corn Mac and Cheese

Happy New Year, Weekly Mackers! May 2017 bring all sorts of new recipes to this blog.

 

Creamy Corn Mac and Cheese (from The Kitchn)

Serves 6
10 ounces medium-sized dry pasta shells (mine were corn)
2 tablespoons butter (mine was salted)
2 cups corn kernels (I used frozen kernels that had been thawed)
1/4 cup heavy cream (I used Half-N-Half, but I’d recommend using heavy cream as the recipe says)
1 cup torn fresh basil leaves, divided (I just tore mine roughly; I’d recommend mincing it)
1/2 cup freshly crumbled feta cheese (preferably French or Bulgarian), divided (mine was whatever they had at the grocery store, probably Greek style)
Red pepper flakes (I used two heavy pinches; use more or less as you see fit)
Salt

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over medium-high heat (mine was not that heavily salted; you should make it taste like seawater). Add the pasta and cook according to package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain the pasta; set aside.

(This step you should do right when the pasta is almost done cooking; I didn’t and burned some of my corn). Melt the butter in a large frying pan or skillet over medium heat. Add the corn and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Add the reserved pasta water, pasta shells, cream, and half of the basil and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 3 minutes. Stir in half of the feta and mix until creamy and the shells are coated, about 2 to 3 minutes more.

Remove from the heat and season with salt (I should have used more salt; I held back because I figured the feta would be salty enough). Top with remaining feta, basil, and red pepper flakes. Serve immediately.

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Verdict: 3.5/5 – Between the corn, the basil, and even the feta, this recipe was bursting with summer with just the right amount of zing from the red pepper flakes. Still, this recipe was missing something, but I suspect it’s salt; I was sparing when I should have been generous. So if you make this recipe, learn from my mistake and don’t hold back on the salt.


Recipe 71: Italian-Style Mac and Cheese with Chicken Sausage

I know the blog hasn’t been busy, but rest assured, I’ve been busy collecting recipes to try.  This one comes courtesy of an ad for Carnation Evaporated Milk.

 

Italian-Style Mac and Cheese with Chicken Sausage – from Nestle

Ingredients

2 cups (8oz) dry elbow macaroni

1 can evaporated milk

2 cups (8 oz package) shredded Italian-style or 4- or 5-cheese blend

2 links fully cooked Italian-seasoned chicken sausage cut into 1/4″ slices

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half

2 Tablespoons finely sliced fresh basil leaves

Directions

Prepare pasta according to package directions.  Meanwhile, combine evaporated milk, cheese, sausage, garlic powder, and black pepper in a medium saucepan.  Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until cheese is melted.  Remove from heat.  Add drained pasta to cheese sauce; stir until combined.  Add tomatoes and basil; stir gently until mixed in.  Makes six servings, one cup each.

Verdict: 4/5 – Oh man.  Yum.  As you can see, I neglected to snap a picture of this one.  The real reason is I just forgot, but another believable reason would be that I glommed this down so quickly that I didn’t have time.  My one complaint is that the sauce was a little soupy, but the flavor was spot on.


Recipe 70: Bow ties with Sugar Snaps, Lemon, and Ricotta

I saw this recipe and thought it sounded like spring, so I had to try it.

Bowties with Sugar Snaps, Lemon, and Ricotta – from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

Salt for pasta water
1 pound sugar snaps
1 pound dried pasta bowties
1/2 cup (about 1 ounce) finely grated pecorino romano or parmesan cheese (Loverman forgot this…)
Glug, then drizzle, of olive oil
Coarse or fine sea salt for sprinkling
Ground black pepper or red pepper flakes
Juice of 1 lemon, plus more to taste
Few leaves of mint, slivered
1 cup ricotta; use fresh if you can find or have motivation to make it

Directions

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to boil. While waiting, string sugar snaps and cut into 1/2-inch segments. Cook bowties for two minutes less than the suggested cooking time on the package, then add sugar snaps to pasta. Cook for one minute more. Reserve one cup pasta cooking water, then drain sugar snaps and bowties. Add them back to the empty pot with 1/2 cup pasta cooking water, grated cheese, a glug of olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook on high for one minute, tossing constantly. Add a splash more cooking water if pasta looks too dry. Turn heat off, dollop ricotta all over in large spoonfuls and, without stirring, tip pasta mixture into a wide serving bowl. (I do this because I love the idea of finding slightly unmixed pockets of ricotta.) Drizzle pasta with a small amount of olive oil, then squeeze lemon juice over the whole dish, sprinkle with mint, and finish with an extra sprinkling of parmesan. Serve quickly; eat happily.

(Lemon juice, rather rudely, discolors green vegetables so be sure to add this only right before serving, and when it will be eaten before anyone will care.)

Verdict: 2.5/5 – Due for a do-over.  Like I said, Loverman forgot the pecorino.  Without it, it was somewhat bland.  Also Loverman didn’t cut up the sugar snaps, which made it awkward to eat.  He liked it with the mint and the pepper.

 

 

 


Recipe 69: Lemony Mac and Peas

I actually made his a few weeks ago, but I’m only getting around to posting it now.  Oops?

Lemony Mac and Peas (from Better Homes and Gardens, April 2016)

Ingredients

2 cups fresh peas

1 cup milk

3/4c ricotta

1/4c pesto

8oz dried rigatoni (I think Loverman used a full pound)

1 cup cubed ham

4oz shredded mozzarella

Lemon

Directions

Shell the peas.  In a medium saucepan, cook one cup of the peas six minutes in boiling salted water.  Drain under cold water.  Transfer to to a food processor.  Add milk, ricotta, pesto, and 2 tsp lemon zest.  Process until smooth.

Meanwhile cook rigatoni according to package directions, adding remaining cup of peas the last four minutes.  Drain, return to pot.  Stir in pea-ricotta mixture and cubed ham.

Transfer to a greased 2qt baking dish.  Top with mozzarella.  Bake at 425F for 20 minutes.  Makes four servings.

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Verdict: 2/5

The best either of us could say about this was “meh, it’s OK.”  It wasn’t bad or anything, but it wasn’t particularly exciting either.  Now keep in mind, when he made this, Loverman used twice as much pasta as he should have, so everything probably got diluted.  Neither of us was intrigued enough that we’d want to try it again.


Recipe 68: Crab Mac and Cheese with Sundried Tomatoes

There are a few recipes that I say are “due for a do-over,” which usually means I’m pretty sure I did something wrong to make the dish less than perfect. However there was one mac I made that inspired an entirely new one. I wish I could take credit for it, but it was Loverman who came up with it. When I made the lobster mac and cheese, he came up with several changes to the recipe that he thought would make it even better. I’m finally getting around to trying those changes. So here we are, another Weekly Mac original!

Crab Mac and Cheese with Sundried Tomatoes
Ingredients
8 oz. cheddar(I used sharp yellow)
8 oz gruyere
2 1/2 cups milk (I used skim)
1/4 onion, diced
3 tablespoons flour (or gluten free substitute)
3 tablespoons truffle oil
1 lb pasta (I used corn elbows)
8oz lump crab meat (my container said it was best for crab cakes)
1/4 cup chopped tarragon
1/4 cup chopped basil
about 6oz chopped sundried tomatoes (mine came with “Italian basil seasoning” already on them)
1/4 c breadcrumbs
Blue cheese to taste

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

Cook pasta according to package directions while you make the sauce.

Take about a tablespoon of butter and saute the onions in it. Add 2 more tablespoons of butter and as it is melting, add the flour. Whisk it in and keep it moving, scraping the bottom. Get out all the lumps so it is a smooth mixture. Cook constantly stirring for 2 minutes. Add the milk. when the milk is almost boiling, slowly add the cheese in handfuls and make sure it is fully incorporated before adding the next. When all the cheese is in, add the truffle oil, herbs, and sundried tomatoes. Mix the pasta with the sauce and crab. Throw mixture into a 9″x13″ dish. Top with breadcrumbs and as many crumbles of blue cheese as you see fit (I used the better part of a 4oz container).

Put dish in oven and cook for 20 minutes. I didn’t want to do too much longer because I didn’t want to overcook the crab. Wait about 5 – 10 minutes for it to cool before serving.

Verdict: 2/5 – I gotta tell you, this was a real let down for both of us. The crab was too fishy. The sundried tomatoes, pre seasoned, were too loud, drowning out all flavors but the fishy crab. The best part was the blue cheese, and that was just the topping.

Do you have any recipes you think I should try? Let me know!


Recipe 67: Creamy Lemon Mac Primavera

I recently made dinner for my dad, but don’t worry!  Mom hasn’t been left out!  Today is her birthday (happy birthday, Mom!), so a few days ago I had her over and made her lunch.

Creamy Lemon Mac Primavera (from All Things Mac and Cheese)

Ingredients

8 ounces penne pasta (I used corn and rice elbows)
1 tablespoon butter
1 carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1/2 cup red bell pepper, cut into matchsticks
1 small zucchini, cut into matchsticks (Loverman got a summer squash, so I used that instead)
Salt and black pepper to taste
1/3 cup Wisconsin ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon heavy cream (I used half and half)
1/4 cup (1 ounce) Wisconsin parmesan cheese, grated
1 lemon, zest and juice

Directions

Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente.
Meanwhile, melt butter in small skillet; add carrot, bell pepper, zucchini, salt and pepper to taste. Cook over medium heat until vegetables soften but retain their bright color, about 5 minutes.
In small bowl, combine ricotta, cream and parmesan cheese; mix until smooth. Stir in lemon zest and juice.
Drain pasta and immediately toss with cheese mixture; stir in vegetables. Serve with additional parmesan cheese for topping.

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Verdict: 3/5 – This claimed to only serve two, but both of us had seconds and there was still some leftover.  The different vegetables added lots of texture elements, but the flavor was a little meh.  The lemon was bright, a nice burst of citrus in this cold winter, but you definitely needed that extra Parmesan to punch things up.