Cajun Mac and Cheese

It doesn’t happen often, but occasionally I have to break my rule about using processed ingredients in cooking. Cajun Mac and Cheese is one of the dishes that I definitely bend the rules for, and that is because of the magical ingredient known as Velveeta. I am a Wisconsinite, so it feels like a sin to say that I use processed cheese to make my homemade mac and cheese, but honestly, there’s a reason they advertise it as liquid gold. I have made so many homemade cheese sauces, and none of them produce the saucy, creamy deliciousness that Velveeta gives me. 

However, just because I use Velveeta cheese to create my mac and cheese, doesn’t mean that I can’t dress it up. Here’s a little secret, ANY mac and cheese can be made classier by putting add-ins into the bowl, and given my love for Cajun cuisine, of course I fancy this pasta up with a touch of Cajun cooking. If you are looking for an easy Mac and Cheese dish that tastes like it came out of a gourmet restaurant, look no further!

Ingredients

Mac and Cheese

8 oz Chicken Breast

½ tbsp Olive Oil

1 tsp Cajun Seasoning

4 oz Andouille Sausage

2 cups Elbow Macaroni

5 oz Velveeta Cheese

2 ½ tbsp Butter

⅓ – ½ cup Whole Milk

Crunchy Panko Topping

½ cup Panko Bread Crumbs

¼ tsp Cajun Seasoning

½ tbsp Butter

¼ cup Parmesan Cheese

Garnish

Salt

Sriracha Sauce

Directions

1. Before working on the actual pasta part of the dish, the meat needs to be prepped and cooked. Rub the chicken breast with the olive oil and Cajun seasoning. Place in a covered baking dish and bake for 35 minutes at 375 degrees. While this is cooking, the rest of the dish can be prepped

2. Slice the andouille sausage into thin coins, about a fourth inch or less. Place in a frying pan and brown the sausage at medium high heat. After it crisps up – about 5 minutes of frying – place the sausages on a paper towel lined plate to degrease them.

Kitchen Tip 1: Andouille is a smoked sausage, so technically it is already cooked. Frying it provides a nice crisp to the edges of the coins though. DO NOT grease the frying pan before frying these. Andouille is greasy enough that it doesn’t need more grease added in. 

3. Next, it’s time to create the Crunchy Panko Topping. Wipe the andouille frying pan mostly clean, leaving a little grease residue for flavor, then melt in ½ tbsp of butter. Once it is melted, pour in the panko bread crumbs and ¼ tsp of Cajun seasoning. Stir this constantly until the bread crumbs turn toasty brown. 

Kitchen Tip 2: It is essential that you are using panko, not regular bread crumbs. Panko is larger and crunchier than traditional bread crumbs, creating a better textural element. If you must substitute something for panko, Townhouse Crackers work best. 

4. Once the panko has been toasted, pour it onto a plate, let it cool, then mix the parmesan cheese in with a fork. 

5. Boil a pot half full with water, and cook the pasta according to the box instructions. Strain the noodles in a colander. 

6. Measure out the proper amount of Velveeta cheese and cut it into tiny ½ squares. 

7. In the same pot the noodles were cooked in, add ⅓ cup of milk, the butter, and the Velveeta. Cook on warm until the butter is melted, then pour the pasta back into the pot and stir until the cheese is melted.

8. By this point the chicken should be fully cooked. Slice the chicken into bite sized pieces, and mix both the andouille and the chicken into the pasta. Heat until the andouille is rewarmed.

Kitchen Tip 3: At this point evaluate how saucy you like your mac and cheese. If you prefer a saucier dish, add in the rest of the milk, otherwise your dish is ready to serve. 

10. Scoop the appropriate amount of mac and cheese onto each plate, sprinkle the crunchy panko topping on top, then add salt to taste, and a drizzle of sriracha sauce.

Kitchen Tip 4: Be cautious with the sriracha sauce! This stuff is spicy. If you are not a spicy fan, you will probably want to skip that step. Even if you do like spicy food, make sure you are only drizzling a thin line onto the pasta, otherwise the flavor of the sriracha will overwhelm everything else. 

That’s all there is to it. This mac and cheese is easy to make, but looks so pretty, and tastes way fancier than it actually is. If you are a fan of gourmet mac and cheese or Cajun cuisine, you are going to love this recipe! Enjoy!

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