How to cook the perfect Macaroni and Cheese Recipe with Crayfish
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes
Serves 6 people
Macaroni and cheese may have started off as a humble, heavy, calorific meal designed to do little more than fill a gap, but in recent years it has become something of a world-beating dish, being found in hip bars and cafes around the world.
I guess the secret to its success is partly to do with its simplicity – it is, essentially, little more than pasta in a cheese sauce, and partly to do with its versatility.
Once you nail the basics, it becomes a gorgeously stodgy vehicle for literally thousands of potential flavours and ingredients.
Over the past decade, it's become associated with the somewhat ironic 'dirty food' movement, taking dishes from dive bars and roadside cafes, and tarting them up to be something special, displaying a wide array of fashionable ingredients and unique flavour combinations.
This recipe takes its inspiration from America's deep south, and involves affordable yet delicious crayfish tails, but if you like, you can up the luxury and use lobster instead, or any meaty shellfish available at your local fishmongers.
What you'll need:
- 100 grams of salted butter, plus a little extra for greasing the pot
- 250 grams of dried macaroni, or any other small, shaped pasta variety
- 1 small finely chopped onion
- 50 grams of good quality, skinned and diced spicy chorizo sausage
- a quarter teaspoon of cayenne pepper (more if you like extra heat)
- half a teaspoon of smoked paprika
- a quarter of a teaspoon of ground nutmeg
- about 50 grams of plain flour
- 600 millilitres of milk
- 75 grams of roughly grated, mature cheddar cheese
- 75 grams of roughly grated Gruyere (or any other similar cheese)
- a handful of breadcrumbs
- about 300 grams of cooked and peeled crayfish tails or similar shellfish meat
Grease with butter the inside of a shallow, ovenproof dish, and preheat your oven to 210 degrees centigrade.
Fill half a large pan with water, add a little salt and bring it to a boil. When your water is bubbling away nicely, add your pasta, and simmer for a good ten minutes or until the pasta is almost tender. You don't want it fully cooked, as it will go in the oven later. Drain it off, and put to one side.
While your pasta is boiling, you can start on the sauce. Melt your butter in a large saucepan, and when fully melted (but not brown), take the pan off the heat and spoon three tablespoons of the butter into a mixing bowl and set aside.
Return the pan to the heat, and throw into the remaining butter your chopped onion, and the diced chorizo. You'll want to cook these over a low heat, and add the chopped onion and diced sausage. Cook over a low heat for about 5 minutes, keeping everything moving with a wooden spoon until the onions have softened nicely, and the sausage has begun to release the brightly coloured fat.
Stir in your spices, and add the flour, stirring all the time until you have a nice thick roux.
At this point, you'll need to add your milk gradually. Do it a bit at a time, and slowly stir until it has all combined.
Once you've added all of the milk, increase the temperature a little and continue to stir for about five minutes. You want a sauce with the consistency of a good custard, so you might have to add a couple more splashes of milk if it gets too thick.
Mix up your grated cheeses, and add about 100 grams of the cheese to your sauce. Continue stirring over a low heat, until all the cheese has melted. Season to taste – it should be looking, smelling and tasting good enough to eat by itself.
Mix up the rest of your cheese with the bread crumbs and the melted butter you set aside earlier.
Now it's time to stir in your shellfish and drained macaroni into the cheese sauce. Give it a good mix, and pour the whole lot into your buttered, ovenproof dish, and then top with your breadcrumb mixture.
Bake your macaroni cheese in the oven for about twenty-five minutes, or until it's golden brown and bubbling temptingly.
Serve nice and hot, with a fresh side salad.
Wine pairing for Macaroni and Cheese with Crayfish
Everyone loves cheese and wine together – it's one of the classic combinations that brings an extraordinary amount of pleasure to our lives. However, this mac 'n' cheese dish has many different elements in it that make it a little tricky to pair wine with.
When it's the star of its own show, crayfish, lobster and other shellfish pair beautifully with the soft, floral creaminess of a good Viognier, but in this dish, they aren't going to stand out strongly enough against the perky cheeses and spicy Chorizo. As such, you're going to want to go for a bottle which is fresh and crispy, fruity and acidic.
For us, this dish would go beautifully with a good, dry Riesling wine. The flinty crispness of this wine combined with the cheesiness of the dish is reminiscent of a fresh apple, or a glass of cold cider - another perfect partner for any mature cheese, while its refreshing acidity will tackle the chorizo while not overpowering the fish. Delicious!
And there you have it; the recipe for Macaroni and Cheese with crayfish and the perfect wine pairing.
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