November 27, 2012

Cajun Macaroni and Cheese


The weather has been running hot and cold here.  Literally!  I guiltily turned the central air on last week when the house just didn't cool down enough for our preferred sleeping temperature. 

After sleeping for 10 years above an uninsulated front porch (the "summer porch" a lot of older homes had, which is basically a room that's almost all windows, so you can catch a breeze in the summer heat), we REALLY have come to like a cold room.  This is definitely not the usual November weather- some days have been in the high 60's, and today is a much colder 34.

During one of the cold days, Jeffrey decided to write up a recipe we've been enjoying for a year or so. This is his own recipe, arrived at through trial and error.  Every batch was just a little bit better!

Cajun Macaroni and Cheese is definitely not an inexpensive comfort food because of all the cheese, but the taste is so good that every time I bring a container for lunch, someone in my office comments on how good is smells.  It tastes even better!

And as usual, we make massive amounts, because even with all the cheese, this recipe freezes very well.  If you're going to go to all the trouble of putting this together, you might as well be able to enjoy your hard work for awhile!


Cajun Macaroni and Cheese
yield = 14-16 servings

5 -6 slices fresh bread
1 cup grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
4 tablespoons minced parsley
½ teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
½ teaspoon Hungarian sweet paprika
¼ teaspoon sea salt
4 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
24 ounces Andouille sausage, sliced
1 large onion, minced
2 teaspoons minced garlic

2 pounds elbow macaroni

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
6 cups milk, divided
1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
8 ounces gruyere cheese, shredded
1 pound American cheese, shredded
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 tsp sweet Hungarian paprika
¾ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¾ teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
½ teaspoon salt (or to taste)


Prepare two 9x13 casserole dishes by spraying with nonstick cooking spray.

Process bread into unevenly-sized crumbs.    Combine bread crumbs, Parmigiano-Reggiano, parsley, black pepper, paprika and salt in a medium mixing bowl.  Pour the melted butter on top of the bread crumb mixture and stir to combine.  Set aside.

Melt 1 tbsp butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add sliced Andouille sausage and onion and cook, stirring frequently, until the sausage is lightly browned and the onion is translucent (5-6 minutes).  Add garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.  Transfer sausage mixture to a bowl, cover and set aside.


Start water boiling and prepare the macaroni according to package directions.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Start at about the same time you start the water boiling for the macaroni.

In the same Dutch oven used to cook the sausage and onions, melt 6 tablespoons butter over medium heat.  When the butter is bubbling, add ¼ cup of the flour and whisk to combine.  Whisk in the rest of the flour, ¼ cup at a time, to make a roux.   Whisk in one cup of milk and whisk until smooth.  Whisking constantly, add two more cups of milk, one cup at a time, until smooth.   Cook until slightly thickened (about 2 minutes), then add the final 3 cups of milk and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce starts to thicken (about 10 minutes). 

Reduce heat to medium-low, then add the grated cheddar and gruyere cheeses 1 cup at a time, whisking until smooth before adding the next cup.  Repeat until all of the cheddar and gruyere are incorporated into the sauce, then repeat with the American cheese.  Whisk in the Worcestershire sauce, mustard powder, paprika, cayenne, black pepper and salt.   Remove from heat.

Drain the macaroni.    Divide the macaroni and the sausage mixture evenly between the two casserole dishes,  add half of the sauce into each casserole, then stir to combine.  Sprinkle half of the topping mixture over each casserole, then transfer to the preheated oven.

Cook for 35 minutes, rotating the casserole dishes once during cooking.  Remove from the oven and let cool 10 minutes.  Serve.  

We like to package the leftovers into sandwich-sized freezer-safe containers.  This size is good for an individual work-day lunch.  Microwave and enjoy!