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 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 19: Shrimp Mac and Cheese

Although I often find my mac and cheese recipes just moseying around the Interwebz, stumbling upon various recipes on the myriad recipe sites out there, I do sometimes seek out specific recipes for my macs.  Sometimes it’s to see if something will work, to try to use an unusual ingredient I happen to have in the kitchen, or to simply see if a specific recipe exists.  Speaking of, did you know there are breakfast mac and cheese recipes out there?  Forrealz!  I’m sure they’ll make an appearance at some point.

Anyway, while shrimp are hardly unusual, I don’t keep them in my kitchen most of the time.  I happened to have some in the freezer, and I thought I must have a shrimp mac and cheese recipe waiting for me.  After browsing through my bookmarks of recipes that I need to try (there is a whole folder in my browser of these), I did find a few – but most required raw shrimp, and mine were precooked.  After doing a bit of digging online, I found this simple recipe to use up those little sea-bugs.

Shrimp Mac and Cheese (from Mr. Food)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound elbow macaroni (I used rice elbows)
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (or gluten-free alternative)
  • 1/2 teaspoon seafood seasoning (Old Bay)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups milk
  • 4 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese, divided (Loverman bought a yellow pre-shredded, so that’s what I used)
  • 1 pound cooked medium-sized shrimp, cut in half (I only cut some in half.  I’m a rebel like that)

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Coat a 9- x 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.  Cook macaroni according to package directions; drain.  In a large soup pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour, seafood seasoning, salt, and pepper; mix well. Gradually add milk, bring to a boil, and cook until thickened, stirring constantly. Stir in 3 cups cheese until melted.  Add cooked macaroni and shrimp to cheese sauce and stir until thoroughly combined; pour mixture into prepared baking dish and sprinkle top with remaining 1 cup cheese.  Bake 35 to 40 minutes, or until heated through and top is golden.

Still kind of bubbling.

Verdict: 4/5

I loved this recipe.  The aroma from the cheese sauce and the Old Bay is delicious as it’s cooking.  The crispy bits on the top and the side take it over the top for me, but I am a sucker for crispy cheesy-morsels.  Loverman thought it was all right, but he felt it would be better if instead of shrimp, the protein was ham.  I think that could work, too.  Personally, I think it would work even without the shrimp, just straight-up vegetarian – though I think some bread crumbs on top would be needed to vary the texture.

 

Have you guys tried any of the recipes I’ve posted?  Do you have recipes you’d like to see me try?  Any other comments or complaints?  Let me know!  Contact me at weeklymac*AT*yahoo*DOT*com


Recipe 8: Lobster Mac and Cheese

V-Day, for many people, means over-priced flowers, over-priced chocolates, and over-priced dinners in over-crowded restaurants.  As with many other things, the hubz and I do things a little bit differently: We have a nice dinner in – fancier than usual, but without the trouble of crowds – and enjoy things nice and low-key.  This weekend he treated me to one of our go-to romantic meals, a hearty surf and turf, so I decided that tonight I would treat him.  And with this challenge in the back of mind, I figured there must be a romantic mac and cheese out there.

Does that sound silly?  It might – but you did not know about Food in My Beard‘s lobster mac and cheese.

You may remember how much I raved over the Philly Mac and Cheesesteak from Food in My Beard.  As such, I expected nothing but enjoyment from this recipe.  I was not disappointed.  Loverman and I often rely on shellfish as a special-meal (well, crab or lobster – shrimp is, well, shrimp), and while Loverman tends towards crab, I like both sea-bugs pretty equally.  I couldn’t remember the last time I had lobster  and Loverman had picked up some crab for our weekend surf-and-turf – so lobster it was.

Poor choice on my part in terms of cost-efficiency: Buying lobster on V-Day.  One of my local grocery stores does sell pre-cooked lobster meat and saves you the convenience of removing the shells and all that, and of course there was plenty of it – but oh man, did it hurt the wallet.  But it was delicious, and one can’t put a price on good food.  Or romance.

Another somewhat unorthodox ingredient included in this recipe?  White truffle oil.  I managed to pick some up for a good price a while ago (I love non-traditional spices, oils, and vinegars – such simple ways to make otherwise normal ingredients pop!), but never actually used it yet.  Oh man, why have I been waiting?

Remembering how much my last Food in My Beard mac made, I only made a half-recipe.  There is still a respectable about of mac.

Lobster Mac and Cheese (from Food in My Beard)

Ingredients

  • 10 oz. cheddar(I used sharp white)
  • 8 oz gruyere
  • 2 1/2 cups milk (I used skim)
  • 1/4 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic diced
    3 tablespoons flour
  • 3 tablespoons truffle oil (to taste)
  • 1 lb pasta (I used quinoa elbows)
  • lobster – I used 1 large fresh lobster and 2 frozen lobster meat containers (I, on the other hand, used two small containers of pre-cooked, shelled claws.  I would have gotten tails too, but I didn’t pay attention)
  • Tablespoon chopped tarragon
  • 1/4 cup chopped chives
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil
  • about 15 cherry tomatoes quartered
  • homemade bread crumbs (I used a store bought gluten-free kind)
  • lots of butter

Directions

Prepare the lobster. As I said, some of mine was pre cooked frozen. I thawed it as I steamed the fresh lobster, then mixed it all together (I didn’t have to worry about that). Chop the herbs all together and quarter the cherry tomatoes. shred up the cheese. Take about a tablespoon of butter and saute the onions in it. After 5 or so, add the garlic. 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. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan and whisk everything to keep it smooth. when the milk is almost boiling, slowly add the cheese in handfuls and make sure it is fully incorporated before adding the next. Turn the heat down a little at this point. When all the cheese is in, add the truffle oil. I used a lot because I like it a lot, but 3 tablespoons should be good (the cheese sauce smelled so good at this point!). Drop the pasta and cook it a bit less than it says to, but not much (I cooked the pasta while making the sauce to save time). I also food processed some bread at this point to make my breadcrumbs, and mixed them with melted butter (I melted about a Tablespoon at a time and eyeballed the bread crumbs). Mix the pasta with the sauce, lobster, tomatoes, and herbs, and get it into a 400 degree oven. We don’t want to overcook the lobster, and the pasta and sauce was already hot going into the pan, but we DO want to get everything set together and allow the pasta to absorb some of the sauce. After only 8 or so minutes, broil the mac and cheese until the top is browned.  (I actually didn’t broil it after cooking it – oops) Wait the longest 10 minutes of your life before eating.

I wish I could allow you to smell through your screen.

Verdict: 4/5

Like I said, I forgot to broil, and I think that probably would have added to the awesomeness of this recipe.  Since tomatoes are out of season and I don’t have a greenhouse or anything, the ones I got were probably shipped in from across the country and were not the greatest, but that’s a minor complaint.  Also, I never thought I would say this – but there might have actually been too much lobster.  Insane, right?  Every bite had chunks of lobster meat almost to the point of being overwhelming.  Almost.  The lobster meat was succulent, not overcooked thankfully, but I actually think this would have been good even without the addition of the lobster.  The herbs – I used dried – added a lovely green element to the flavor, and again, I cannot praise that white truffle oil enough.  It was savory but light – the whole dish, actually, was surprisingly light.  Obviously it’s not diet food – it’s still mac and cheese, after all – but it didn’t have that weightiness in the belly that you sometimes get with mac and cheese.  As I mentioned before, I made a half recipe, but we still have leftovers even after we both took two helpings – though not as many as we did for the Philly mac and cheesesteak.

Loverman liked the recipe too, but was not as enthused as me.  Actually, a fan of crab, he had this suggestion:

“Here’s a thought,” he mused as he ate, “Use snow crab instead of lobster… maybe instead of the cherry tomatoes, use sundried tomatoes… and add blue cheese crumbles on top.  I wonder how that would be.”

Hm… So do I, Loverman.  So do I.