Sausage Gravy Macaroni & Cheese

I knew sausage gravy and macaroni and cheese would be fast friends. They both start out the same way, but with different fats. You have the roux that serves as the base for the mac, which is identical to the base of your average sausage gravy. The only difference being one starts with sausage drippings instead of butter.

What makes this macaroni and cheese stand out, though, is a whole lot of garlic powder. I strongly believe garlic powder is an unsung hero in the cooking world. Not in the world of everyday cooks like me – home cooks know it well. You’ll see it in every one of those one-sheet pan dinners, casseroles, or crockpot meals.

In my limited exposure to the upper echelons of the culinary world, I can’t remember one instance where a chef added garlic powder to a dish and owned it. At some level it’s understandable. Fresh garlic is a flavor powerhouse. Why use the tacky, outdated powdered stuff?

But when I add garlic powder, there’s an added yumminess, umami, whatever that magical flavor is. I don’t get that when I add freshly minced garlic. In some dishes, like casseroles, the fresh garlic flavor gets lost. Garlic powder does a better job of permeating the entire dish, and the garlic flavor is tastier, somehow.

All things considered, garlic, is garlic, is garlic – fresh is better in some dishes, while I’ll exclusively use powdered garlic in others.

I saw a recipe for homemade garlic powder on Serious Eats – this is my next frontier. With this mac you’re going to get a whopping sausage, cheese and garlickly bite, and you have good, old, been-there-done-that garlic powder to thank for it. 😊

I N G R E D I E N T S

  • 1 box short pasta, of your choosing
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 6 Kraft American Cheese singles
  • 1 quart whole milk, scalded
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1 stick butter, salted or unsalted
  • 3 / 4 lb. sausage of your choosing, casings removed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 1 / 2 tablespoons garlic powder

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to 350*.
  2. Brown the sausage, breaking it down into smaller pieces in a large pot on medium heat until the meat is cooked through, and a bit crispy in places. Add the flour and butter, and cook, stirring until the flour is fully dissolved into the meat, and the butter is melted.
  3. At this point, add the scalded milk, keeping the heat on medium. Stir with a wooden spoon until the sauce begins to thicken.
  4. In the meantime, heat a pot of salted water until boiling. Cook the pasta al dente, according to package instructions. Strain and set aside.
  5. Once the sauce coats a spoon, add the cheeses and stir until completely incorporated. Add the pasta, salt, pepper and garlic powder and stir to combine.
  6. Pour the macaroni and cheese into a casserole dish, and bake for 20 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling hot, and the top is browned.

 

Brown Butter Bacon & Shrimp Risotto

My job requires travel to Louisiana. Due to lingering hours waiting for connecting flights at airports, I’ve had ample time to hone in on where to eat the minute I land.

I was interested to hear from a Lafayette native that northern Louisiana – specifically north of Alexandria if you drew a line across – embodies an entirely different culture than the southern half, which she claims has a more Cajun attitude toward food and life.

Louisiana natives, what is a Cajun attitude toward life? Because whatever that is, I’m pretty sure I want it.

I had flown into Shreveport and noticed there were a lot of Mexican restaurants. All makes sense, as someone described the Shreveport area as “Eastern Texas.” But I was set on Cajun food this trip.

Some research into the best restaurants in the Shreveport area yielded Crawdaddy’s Kitchen and Marilynn’s Place – and Marilynn’s Place ended up being the place to go, because it was the closest stop from the airport and I was I’m About To Pass Out-level hungry.

Side question for local Louisianans – what other standbys do folks recommend in the Shreveport area?

I love southern flavors, I think. But one thing I have quickly assumed to be true – is that there’s probably no such thing. I’m no expert in southern food, and I wish I was. I’ve just noticed that there’s an added emphasis on seafood, spices, and deep smoky flavors, compared to other American cuisines. All things I’m a loud fan of.

Back home and inspired to cook something southern-tasting, this recipe came to mind.

The roux which serves as the foundation for many southern meals, most notably Jambalaya, was the inspiration for the brown butter used start to this risotto off.

The rest of the cooking is relatively predictable – it’s a risotto after all!

I think a bold, homemade seafood stock made from prawn carcasses would be an amazing cooking liquid for this instead, but here I just used store-bought chicken stock.

The other reason to love risotto? It’s therapy. A slow, mindless process that quells the busy thoughts – at least for me. Maybe this is the Cajun way to eat – take-your-time kind of food. I hope you enjoy. 😊

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2 to 4, depending on appetites.

  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1 liter chicken stock (I like College Inn)
  • 2 / 3 cup parm reg
  • 6 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely cracked black pepper
  • 10 slices hardwood smoked bacon, small diced
  • 1 / 2 white onion, small diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 dozen shrimp, almost cooked through and cut in\ bite sized pieces, plus additional whole shrimp for garnish, if desired
  • Louisiana Hot Sauce, if desired
  • Hot peppers of your choosing, if desired

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Heat the stock until it’s simmering – you will be ladling heated stock into the risotto throughout the cooking process.
  2. In a large pot, brown the bacon until it’s crispy. Remove from the pot. Add the onions, sprinkling with a dash of salt. Saute the onions for 3 to 4 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic, and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Be sure to scrape up any brown drippings from the bacon on the bottom of the pan.
  3. In the meantime, in a small saucepan, heat the butter. Cook on medium-low heat for 7 to 8 minutes, until the milk solids begin to brown. Remove from the heat as soon as you see the liquid turn golden.
  4. Add the butter to the onions, garlic, and add the bacon back into the pot.
  5. Stir in the arborio rice, and allow to absorb some of the liquid from the pot and toast lightly, about 3 minutes.
  6. Add a ladle of stock and stir. Keeping the heat on medium-low, gently stir the rice intermittently, and when the rice appears to get a bit dry, add more stock. After about 20 minutes, test the doneness of the rice. The rice should be al-dente, and the consistency of the risotto should be creamy.
  7. At this point, add the parm reg, and stir until incorporated. Then add the shrimp, and stir until heated through, cooking for an additional 2 minutes or so.
  8. Serve hot, topped with Louisiana Hot Sauce, sliced hot peppers, and extra shrimp, if desired.