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.