Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Shrimp and Feta Mac and Cheese

This recipe was floating around the blogosphere a few months ago and I happened to have almost all the ingredients on hand so I had to give it a try.  Oh my, so glad I did.  We ate this for days and it was so delicious.  At least everyone but Maddie did.  That girl hates mac and cheese.  Doesn't every kid LOVE mac and cheese?!? 

This is a perfect meal for these cool summer nights we've been having in Sacramento.  Fresh ingredients, but with the comfort of a baked noodle dish. 

This is everything you will need to make this:

I really like to use this frozen shrimp from Costco.  Very affordable and the shrimp are always delicious.  The best thing about frozen shrimp is that you can completely forget to take it out to thaw and as long as you rinse them in some cold water and place in a colander, you will have thawed shrimp in about an hour.  That really works well with my tendency to procrastinate.

You'll want to chop up your herbs and zest your lemon.  I used fresh dill, parsley, and oregano.

The topping for this is a wonderful mix of a small portion of these herbs, panko, a little bit of feta, and melted butter.

The cheese really makes this dish.  I recommend using real Greek feta, not that Athenos brand stuff you find already crumbled at the grocery store.  Buy the real deal located in the gourmet cheese section of your grocery store.  It will be a big block in brine, much like they sell fresh mozzarella.  I have even found some at Costco that is really good, too.  The grated cheese below is Gruyere.  Gruyere is probably my favorite cheese to use in any Mac and Cheese.  It is amazing and melts beautifully.

Like most mac and cheese's you begin by making a rue, then adding the cheese to make the cheese sauce.  I forgot to snap a pic of this process, but you'll see it together with the pasta soon enough. 

Take your hot cooked pasta and chopped up shrimp and toss together in a bowl with the white wine.  The heat of the pasta will partially cook the shrimp in just a few minutes.  Set this aside.

Once you've made your cheese sauce and added the herbs and lemon zest, throw the pasta and shrimp in and toss to combine.

Pour into a baking dish and top with your panko and herb topping.

Bake for about 25 minutes and you are done!  So easy and so good.  Serve with a green salad and some crusty bread to soak up any cheese sauce that might be left on your plate.

Shrimp and Feta Mac and Cheese
Adapted from Pink Parsley

1 pound pasta, I love Cellentani for all my mac and cheese's.
1 pound raw shrimp, thawed, peeled and deveined, tails removed, and cut into thirds
1/3 cup dry white wine (I used Pinot Grigio, but Sauvignon Blanc is great, too)
12 oz. feta, cubed
zest of 1 lemon, divided
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
3TBSP chopped fresh parsley, divided
5 TBSP butter
4 TBSP all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
2 TBSP fresh dill, chopped
2 TBSP fresh oregano, chopped
1 pinch red pepper flakes
2 cups shredded Gruyere cheese
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

First, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and then add your pasta and cook until just short of al dente(about 8 minutes).  Drain and toss with shrimp and white wine in a large bowl.  Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine a small handful of the feta, the panko, a pinch of lemon zest, 2 tsp of the parsley and 1 TBSP of melted butter.  Mix with a fork and set aside.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the remaining butter.  Add the flour and whisk constantly until a light golden brown paste(rue) is formed.  Whisk in the milk and stir frequently until slightly thickened, about 5-7 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in the feta, gruyere, oregano, parsley, dill, red pepper flakes, the remaining lemon zest, and salt and pepper.  Stir to melt the cheese and then pour your pasta and shrimp mixture into the pot.  Stir to combine.

Pour pasta into a buttered baking dish and sprinkle the top with the panko mixture.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly browned and bubbly.  Remove from oven and let cool slightly before serving so the cheese sauce does not run all over your plate.