It’s almost time for Mardi Gras! Like it or lump it, you can’t argue with the fact that for many people, Mardi Gras is simply synonymous with good times, frivolity, and joie de vivre. And without ado, Laissez les bon temps roulez!
While Seattle is known for many things, including many foodie-type things, crawfish and andouille sausage are not among those things. So, I placed an order with my brother from another bayou and through the miracle of FedEx, I had fresh crawfish tails and andouille sausage at my doorstep.
The rest of my ingredients were locally sourced from AmazonFresh. Well, their warehouse is local, so it counts, right? (I forgot to include the breadcrumb ingredients in the photo above – it was one of those days. Picture a container of Panko bread crumbs behind the tomatoes and you’re all set.)
The beauty of this recipe is in its versatility. And not just because I give you a stove-top version and a baked version, either! Just like making jambalaya: you throw whatever meat or seafood you have on hand into the pot and call it good. This recipe features crawfish and andouille sausage, but you could easily substitute one or both or these for chicken, turkey, beef, ostrich, pork, gator, hot dogs (okay, that’s a stretch but not unheard of), shrimp, fish…you get the idea. And if you have a health nut in the family (*cough* husband *cough*), you can also throw a couple of handfuls of spinach in the finished product and call it “healthy”. Yeah.
Let’s do this. Start by preheating your oven at 350 degrees, and Pam an oven-safe container. This mac and cheese makes enough to feed everyone and their family, so if you have a large Le Creuset or dutch oven, that should be big enough. I initially made this in a 13×9 Pyrex pan and I had at least four cups of mac and cheese that wouldn’t fit in the pan.
In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions (keep it on the al dente side). Once the pasta is cooked, drain and set aside.
While the pasta is cooking, prep your ingredients: chop your onion and peppers, mince the garlic and parsley, shred the Cheddar cheese.
Next, make the breadcrumbs. In a small bowl, combine breadcrumbs, a tablespoon of melted bacon fat and a tablespoon of minced parsley. Stir to combine and set aside. ***NOTE: Do not make the breadcrumbs if you’re going to make the stove-top version of this recipe. Also, go turn off the oven.
In a large skillet over medium heat, melt one tablespoon of bacon fat (yes, you are detecting a theme here). While the fat is melting, crumble (or slice, depending on which kind you get) the andouille sausage into the skillet.
Brown over medium heat until, well, browned. Add the crawfish tails, fat that they came in and all, and stir to combine. Cook over medium heat until the tails are warmed. Remove the crawfish and sausage from the skillet using a slotted spoon, place in a bowl and set aside.
To the same large skillet (don’t wipe out the skillet, you want the nice flavorful fat and meat bits in there!), add the garlic, onion and peppers and cook over low heat until the onions are slightly caramelized and the peppers are softened, about 15 minutes.
Over medium heat, melt one tablespoon bacon fat in the same large pot in which you cooked the pasta. Once melted, add flour and whisk to combine. Continue to whisk as the roux cooks for three minutes. Still whisking, slowly stream in the milk and cook the mixture, whisking frequently, for five minutes or until it begins to thicken.
Add the Cheddar to the pot and stir until the cheese is melted. Add the salt, pepper, Creole seasoning and hot sauce and stir to combine. Next, add the sauteed veggies and the tomatoes, then the pasta, and stir until everything’s well-mingled and happy.
If you’re wanting a stove-top version, you’re done here. And hopefully you didn’t turn on the oven to preheat previously. Spoon up the delectable gooeyness, top with some parsley, and you’re good to go.
If you’re still with me, that means you want the baked version of this recipe. Grab your Pammed pan and spoon the mac and cheese into it. If you run out of room, just grab another pan. Top your mac and cheese with the breadcrumb mixture, then pop it into the oven to bake for twenty minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow the pan to cool for five minutes. It is a loooooooooong five minutes. But the house smells amazing.
Get out your bowl and spoons and grab your friends. Make sure you have a bunch of them over, because this mac and cheese serves a whole passel of people.
It looks luscious, right? It tastes even better. Promise. Between four and five elbows up! I sent it in with my hubs to his office, and there was a standing ovation (or maybe that was just in my mind…). Well, I know at least two people went back for seconds. Even with all that flavor going on, the crawfish and the andouille stand out. And the ever-so-subtle smoky essence from the bacon fat adds another layer of mouthwatering yum. The spicy afterburn just makes it that much better.
A direct quote: “Tell the wife…THIS IS SCREAMING!!!!!!!!!!”
And I would have to agree.
Here is my recipe.
- 16 ounces elbow macaroni or other dried pasta
- 3 tablespoons bacon fat, divided (butter works in a pinch)
- 6 tablespoons flour
- 1 pound cooked crawfish tail meat
- 1 pound pork andouille sausage
- 1 white onion, minced (about 1 cup)
- 2 tablespoons garlic, minced
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1 14.5 ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, drained and crushed
- 1 pound sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded (about 3 cups)
- 3 cups fat-free milk
- 2 tablespoons Creole seasoning
- 1 tablespoon hot sauce
- 1 tablespoon seasoned salt
- 1 tablespoon seasoned pepper
- ½ cup Panko breadcrumbs
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and Pam a large oven-safe pan. (for baked version only)
- In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Add pasta and cook per package directions. Drain and set aside.
- Make breadcrumbs. In a small bowl, combine breadcrumbs, one tablespoon melted bacon fat and minced parsley. Stir to combine and set aside. ***NOTE: Do not make breadcrumbs for the stove-top version of this recipe.
- In a large skillet over medium heat, melt one tablespoon of bacon fat. Crumble andouille sausage into skillet. Brown over medium heat. Add crawfish tails and stir to combine. Cook over medium heat until tails are warmed, about two minutes. Remove mixture from skillet using a slotted spoon, place in a bowl and set aside.
- To the same large skillet, add garlic, onion and peppers and cook over low heat until softened, about 15 minutes.
- Over medium heat, melt one tablespoon bacon fat in the same large pot in which you cooked the pasta. Once melted, add flour and whisk to combine. Continue to whisk and cook for three minutes. Slowly add milk and cook, whisking frequently, for five minutes.
- Add Cheddar to the pot and stir until cheese is melted. Add salt, pepper, Creole seasoning and hot sauce and stir to combine. Add sauteed veggies and tomatoes, then pasta, and stir.
- Stove-top version: plate and enjoy!
- Baked version, continue the recipe here. Spoon mac and cheese into Pammed pan. Top with breadcrumb mixture, then bake for twenty minutes.
- Remove from oven and allow the pan to cool for five minutes.
- Serve and scarf down immediately!
Laissez les bon temps roulez! Oh, and pork fat rules.