The best Macaroni and Cheese Ever


I love a good blue box dinner every once in a while. To be truthful, I compare every other macaroni and cheese dish against that standard. I blame nostalgia over anything else. Lately, J has taken over more of the cooking responsibilities in our house. Since he likes to try new dishes and tweak old ones, I’ve been spoiled. When he made this macaroni and cheese dish this weekend, I told him we could never go back to the blue box. Ever.

Ingredients:
4 to 5 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
4 tablespoons butter (plus 2 tablespoons to mix with cooked pasta)
4 large garlic cloves, minced garlic (the original recipe called for 2 cloves, but since we like garlic, we used more)
1 teaspoon onion powder (in the future, we’ll use regular diced onions)
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (while the original recipe said this was optional at 1/4 teaspoon, but we like cayenne)
3 tablespoons flour
3 cups half-and-half cream (reserve a little or keep milk on hand to assist with the mixing)
1 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese (we used a mixture of sharp and mild)
1 (16 ounce) package Velveeta cheese (cut into small cubes)
salt & freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
bread crumbs (we used our own, recipe to come!)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a medium casserole dish (we used butter).  Cook the pasta in a pot of boiling salted water until al dente (do not overcook the pasta) drain but do not rinse. Place the pasta a bowl and mix with 2 tablespoons butter to prevent sticking; set aside.
Melt 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add in minced garlic, onion powder, mustard powder and cayenne pepper; stir with a wooden spoon for about 3 to 4 minutes. Add in flour and stir for about 1 minute (this should look like a paste). Slowly add cream (or milk if that’s what you’re using) and cook, stirring constantly over medium until bubbly and thickened. (This is when you will need to watch the heat, you may need to turn it down.) Reduce heat and add in both cheeses; mix until melted and smooth. (If you’re like us and the oil separates here and the mixture turns into a big glob. We added a bit more milk to loosen it.) Add in the cooked pasta and toss to combine. (Do this slowly! A little bit at a time. Otherwise, it will be a giant mess!) Transfer to baking dish. Sprinkle with bread crumbs. Bake 350 degrees F for about 20-25 minutes.

My opinion:
As I said above, I’ll never go back to the trusty blue box. I couldn’t stop eating this. Amazing.

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Shrimp Paesano

Note: this isn't the best photo. The shrimp is really closer to golden brown than burned. Promise. I was just too hungry to wait to take a better photo.

When J and I lived in San Antonio, we used to love to eat in Paesanos outdoor dining room. Especially in the middle of “winter” when they had the heat lamps going and the sunsets were amazing. We often ordered their signature dish, Shrimp Paesano (first dish on the link), which is amazing. Unfortunately, when we left from San Antonio, we couldn’t find a restaurant with similar flair in Columbia. After much trial and error, J finally recreated the dish for our recent anniversary after stumbling across this recipe online. It’s been about four years since I’ve eaten the real dish, but this recreation was so close I could almost see the beautiful sunset view.

Shrimp Ingredients:
2 pints half-and-half cream
salt & pepper , to taste
1 lb jumbo shrimp, about 20,  peeled, deveined, tails left on (We actually removed them for easier eating)
2 cups flour
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Sauce Ingredients:
1 egg yolk
1 ½ cups butter, cold, cut into 1 inch pieces (cold is the key!)
1 medium lemon, juiced
4 garlic cloves , minced
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
3 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped

Shrimp Directions:
Pre-heat oven to 400º F. Soak shrimp in half and half for at least 30 minutes. Drain shrimp and dust lightly in flour. Sauté shrimp in vegetable oil for 5 minutes on one side in a medium-high skillet. Do not let the shrimp burn.  You will have to do in batches so that you do not overcrowd. Do not turn shrimp. Remove shrimp and place in a baking dish, sautéd side down, and place in pre-heated oven. Turn to BROIL and broil for 5 minutes.

Sauce Direction:
Mix egg yolk and lemon juice in half the butter in a sauce pan and stir over low heat until butter is melted; take off heat. Add garlic and remaining butter and return pan to heat. Stir briskly until butter melts and sauce thickens. (Add a small amount of half and half to thicken if you like.) Add chives and parsley (we were out). Pool sauce in plates and top with linguini and shrimp. Serve immediately.

My Opinion:
As mentioned above, I love this dish. It’s the perfect meal. Light and heavy at the same time. The sauce is decadent and delicious with bread. J makes a lot of great dishes, but this one is about perfect.