Can we talk comfort? All this time and space we are given due to circumstances and comfort still escapes us. So we look for it in shapely glasses of wine, in music, in 5 minute coffee breaks, in people, in food. Im focusing on the oven baked comfort of mac and cheese this week. The trials and cheesy tribulations of mac. Who knew elbow shaped pasta drenched in cheese could create such silence and slow the paces of noise seated at a table? And although overdone from holidays to microwaved minutes it still remains untiresome in very particular ways.
On the matter of comfort, I miss brunches. I mean the fantastic whimsy of sundresses, perfectly selected heels, the ringing of laughter and mimosas clinks, and that faint tipsiness that settles in my chest like red hot blooded butterfly wings followed up with a day nap. So this post is a “I MISS U BIGHEAD” to comfort. Comforts we took for granted.
A good mac and cheese is defined by its character and depth. There are points for flavor, texture, consistency. There are also points for personality, because no mac is identical and nor should they be. I use variations of cheeses which melt into the scraping of plates, unbuckling of pants, and sincere second and third servings. My mac reflects mama, church, and holiday dinners but also a bit of my “cooktude” from the heat to the smoked sausage and seafood. At first glance the ingredient list seems excessive but don’t be alarmed. This is a “boujee” mac of sorts however for those that know me it should be unsurprising. And for those that do not, I give you Brunch Mac! Enjoy.
- Elbow Pasta (1 pound)
- Smoked Sausage (7 ounces, sliced)
- Shrimp (1/2 pound, shelled, deveined)
- Crab (1/2 pound, lump)
- Jalapeno (2, chopped)
- Whole Milk (2 cups)
- Unsalted Butter (8 tablespoons)
- Mild Cheddar (1 cups)
- Gouda (1 cup)
- Gruyere (1 cup)
- Mozzarella (1 cup)
- Parmesan (1 cup)
- Pepper Jack (1 cup)
- Ricotta (1 cup)
- Sour Cream (1/2 cup)
- Ground Mustard (1 tablespoon)
- Paprika (2 tablespoons)
- Salt/Pepper (to taste)
- Garlic (2 cloves, finely chopped)
- Italian Breadcrumbs (1 cup)
- Green Onion (as needed, chopped, for plating)
- In a medium skillet saute garlic with 2 tablespoons of butter.
- Add shrimp and crab to skillet and cook for 4 minutes.
- Add smoked sausage and cook for 4 more minutes, and set aside
- In a large pot, boil water and cook pasta until al dente, for approximately 7 minutes. *Al dente pasta will feel firm, not crunchy.
- Drain water from pasta pot, and add butter, milk, sour cream turning heat to low.
- Add paprika, mustard, salt, and pepper.
- Fold in each cup of cheese gently, making sure not to break pasta.
- Turn off heat and add the cooked seafood, sausage, and jalapenos to the mac and cheese.
- Transfer the mac and cheese to a baking pan and sprinkle with Italian breadcrumbs. *I usually save a little cheese to sprinkle on top of the pan with the breadcrumbs as well.
- Bake in preheated oven on *350 for 10 – 12 minutes or until Italian breadcrumbs are a toasted golden.
- Top with green onions and serve.