Friday, June 15, 2012

Recipe Swap: Cajun Mac and Cheese

It's recipe swap time again. I love these recipe swaps and I'm thrilled that the ladies who participate enjoy them as well. As I've mentioned before, Blogger's Choice is the most popular theme for the swaps since it allows everyone the freedom to pick any recipe they want from their assigned blog. In fact, people love it so much I've decided to alternate between a theme and Blogger's Choice starting the end of July and going into mid-October.

This time I was assigned my friend Christina's blog, Tales from a Mad Men Kitchen. Christina had a lot of recipes I wanted to try, but I've had my eye on this Cajun Mac and Cheese since I saw it in Food Network Magazine and was disappointed when I didn't get it for the Noodle Swap. It was an obvious pick for me since we love mac and cheese.

Mary Ellen, the blogger who made this for the Noodle Swap, thought the flavors were a little flat so I made some changes to make sure this had plenty of oomph. I think the brand of andouille used probably has a lot to do with the spice level. Ours had a nice kick to it. I also made my own Cajun Spice Mix, which added another layer of spice. I opted to swap the cheddar for pepper Jack, not thinking that Monterey Jack is a mild cheese. In the recipe below, I changed the cheese to half cheddar, half pepper Jack, which I think will work perfectly.

This had a definite kick to it. The sauce was a little runny the first night, but perfect for leftovers the next day after the pasta absorbed some of the liquid. If you make your own spice blend you can control the heat, leaving out the cayenne if spice isn't your thing and increasing it if you want more kick. The little bites of andouille and red pepper were great and the onion flavor was nice and mild from the scallions. It's also a gorgeous plate of food. Just look at those colors. I served the mac and cheese with a salad made with mixed greens, diced tomato, diced avocado and some frozen corn I defrosted, tossed with a simple vinaigrette made with rice vinegar, oil, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper. Super simple and delicious.

Cajun Mac and Cheese
Slightly Modified from Christina Cooks

Kosher salt
12 ounces wagon-wheel pasta
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 ounces andouille sausage, diced
2 cups thinly sliced scallions
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon Cajun spice blend (see below)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
4 ounces Pepper Jack cheese, cut into cubes
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, cut into cubes

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 1 minute less than the label directs. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta.

Meanwhile, combine the olive oil and sausage in a large skillet over high heat and cook, stirring, until the sausage starts to brown, about 2 minutes. Stir in the scallions and bell pepper and cook until the vegetables are slightly soft, about 3 more minutes. Add the Cajun spice and flour and cook, stirring, 2 more minutes. Gradually whisk in the milk and continue whisking until the sauce is thick and smooth, about 5 more minutes.

Add the pasta, cheese and reserved cooking water to the skillet. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook, tossing to coat the pasta in the sauce and melt the cheese, about 1 minute.

Cajun Spice Mix

3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

Stir together all the spices until evenly blended. Store in an airtight container.
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  1. Phew, I'm glad you liked it after the previous swapper didn't! Your changes sound great, and your photos are beautiful!

  2. This looks spicy and cheesy-a wonderful combination. I need to keep your recipe for just the Cajun spice mix as I often want to use it and don't ever keep it lying around.

  3. This looks so good! I love new ways of making pasta!

  4. I must find those cute pasta shapes at the store. Makes the dish look fabulous!

    Those flavors will fit nicelly with my family's likes too :)

  5. This was my first swap, and it was a huge success for me! Thanks for all of your hard work putting these together!

    This pasta sounds delicious! We are huge suckers for Cajun flavors, I'm just sad andouille sausage is no where to be found in the stores here in Suzhou!

  6. I'm always up for a new version of mac and cheese and this sounds awesome. What initially caught my eye was the shape of pasta - wagon wheels were my #1 favorite when I was a little girl :) I want to try this soon, and I'll definitely take your advice and make my own cajun seasoning so that I can add more heat! Yum.


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