It’s coming to an end – all this talk of Lenten Season. Three Sundays from today and we’ll be wearing our Easter Bonnets! (Oh how I miss those days when we really did prance about in our Sunday Best complete with a beautiful new hat. Hum, I wonder – is that why I am fond of wearing hats? A new hat and new shoes were a part of Easter when I was young).
Kiddo is a big fan of Macaroni and Cheese. What’s not to love? Pasta and cheese – a marriage made in heaven! Macaroni and Cheese is a great side for casual suppers such as baked pork chops. Growing up as I did, tuna casserole made from Macaroni and Cheese with canned tuna and some peas were a stable on Fridays. Just as I’ve grown up, so has Macaroni and Cheese. When we go out to dinner at Red Lobster, Kiddo gravitates to their Lobster Macaroni and Cheese. This Macaroni and Cheese brings together two of my favorites – beautiful, succulent gulf shrimp and kick it up a notch Cajun Seasoning. Don’t ya just love anything with that New Orleans feel?
Cajun Shrimp Macaroni and Cheese
For the Shrimp
1 tablespoons Butter
1 lb Shrimp
1/2 teaspoon Cajun Seasoning
For the Macaroni and Cheese
1 lb Elbow Pasta
4 tablespoons Butter
4 tablespoons Flour
3 cups whole Milk
9 oz Pepper Jach Cheese
1/2 teaspoon Cajun Seasoning, divided
1/4 cup Chives, sliced
Salt to taste
Fresh Black Pepper to taste
For the Topping
4 tablespoons Butter, melted
1 cup Panko Breadcrumbs
3/4 cup Pepper Jack Cheese, shredded
1/2 cup Sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Butter four ramekin or oven-proof soup bowls. Set aside.
Heat a large pot of salted water over high heat for the pasta; cover.
Prepare the Shrimp: In a 10-inch skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the shrimp and Cajun seasoning and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is all pink and cooked through. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
Prepare the Macaroni and Cheese: Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook the pasta according to the box directions for al dente pasta. When the pasta is finished cooking, drain it in a colander.
While the pasta is cooking, make the cheese sauce. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, whisk in the flour and cook for about 1 minute, until the flour starts to brown a bit and smells nutty, whisking constantly.
In a slow, steady stream, whisk in the milk. Allow the sauce to come to a simmer.
Once the sauce comes to a simmer, stir in the Pepper Jack and cheddar cheeses, adding a handful at a time and stirring with a wooden spoon until completely melted before adding the next handful.
Season the cheese mixture with the Cajun seasoning, salt and pepper. Remove sauce from heat. Stir in the chives.
Add the cooked, drained pasta and shrimp to the sauce. Stir with a wooden spoon until everything is completely combined and evenly distributed.
Divide mixture into the prepared ramekins or soup bowls. Set aside.
Prepare the Topping: In a small bowl, mix the melted butter with the Panko breadcrumbs, tossing with a fork until the entire mixture is evenly moistened.
Sprinkle the macaroni and cheese with the shredded cheeses. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture on top of the cheese.
Bake until browned and bubbly, about 15 to 20 minutes. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.