CAJUN CHICKEN MACARONI & CHEESE
Pasta and cheese casseroles can be dated back to the 14th century. A dish known as makerouns was recorded in the famous medieval cookbook, the Forme of Cury. The recipe was “ Take and make a thynne foyle of dowh, and kerve it on peces, and cast hem on boillying water & seep it wele, take chese and grate it and butter cast bynethen and above as losyns, and serue forth.” This translates to “ Make a thin foil of dough and cit it in pieces. Put them in boiling water and seethe them well. Grate cheese and add it with butter beneath and above as with losyns [ a dish similar to lasagna], and serve”(Gutenberg).
The history of macaroni and cheese in the United States is credited to President Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson came into contact with the pasta dish while in Italy. He ordered a machine to make the pasta and imported the macaroni and Parmesean cheese to America. “In 1802, Jefferson served “a pie called macaroni” at a state dinner. Since then, baked macaroni and cheese has remained popular in the United States.
“ In the South, mac & cheese, even as a charity food, got caught up in racial politics. American history shows that macaroni pasta was given away as rations through government funded programming. Economic status would soon be associated with macaroni and cheese. Boxes were given away to both white and black families but black families were not given macaroni and cheese. Through President Johnson’s Great Society plan , macaroni would soon be associated with “poor people food”. Macaroni and cheese became a convenient comfort food that working families could make for their kids. It is inexpensive and sticks to your stomach.
“Today macaroni and cheese can be considered a “black thing” because African Americans adopted the dish so successfully that its ethnic origins were completely forgotten” (Miller). As an African American I know the importance of serving a delicious dish at family functions. “In the African American kitchen, mac and cheese has attained hallowed status. In the black community if your macaroni and cheese is not, as the kids say, off the hook, you can’t cook” (Philips). In the black community, macaroni and cheese is dish that is anticipated. Macaroni and cheese was associated with holidays, special occasions, or Sunday dinners. Everyone has to make sure to have some on their plate. Macaroni is a simple dish that, if done properly, has so much flair and flavor. Have fun with it. There are a million different delicious cheese varieties in the world so one can’t go wrong by using a mixture of a few different cheeses in macaroni and cheese. I love Smoked Gouda! It’s like bacon flavored cheese. It smells delicious. Macaroni and cheese can be baked in the oven or some people like to cook it on the stovetop with creamy cheese.
Macaroni and cheese can be a side dish or a complete meal. It goes great with every meat option possible. Try adding it to a hamburger. It is amazing. Or add some chicken or shrimp or both into the pan. Lobster macaroni and cheese is great as well. In my opinion, the lobster does not hold as much flavor as the shrimp or chicken but it still tastes great. Macaroni and cheese is also referred to as a ziti. Ruth Chris restaurant used to serve a great ziti. I am so upset that it is no longer on their menu. There are few places that have great macaroni and cheese. Most places, when cooked in bulk, water down the flavor. Most high end restaurants have pretty good macaroni and cheese but they are using some great blends of cheeses. It won’t be your grandma’s macaroni and cheese but it definitely has a great taste of its own. Most soul food restaurants are water down as well. The best macaroni and cheese is always homemade. I love to pair it with fried chicken wings, a side salad, and a nice glass of juice.
I grew up eating my grandma’s mac and cheese. I thought it was the best in the world until I tasted my aunt’s mac and cheese. Every Sunday, we had family dinner and mac & cheese was definitely a staple at the dinner table. My younger brother never ate my grandma’s mac & cheese and we thought he was crazy. Why would anyone choose box mac & cheese over a homemade dish that was oozing with real cheese? The key to make this a great tasting dish, is to use a mixture of cheeses. In addition, real butter adds extra flavor.
I thought my grandma’s macaroni and cheese was the best until I tasted Auntie Cheryl’s macaroni and cheese. OMG!! I swear to the heavens that this was the best macaroni and cheese ever. She made it for my high school graduation party and every guest in the party raved how amazing it was. Auntie Cheryl gave me the recipe but I have tried soooo many times to make her recipe and never has it tasted like hers. What I learned from Auntie Cheryl is you have to season your macaroni and cheese. Season the noodles. Season to your liking. She seasoned her macaroni and cheese and that is the step of the process that I can’t quite master like her. I have not tried to make her macaroni and cheese in a few years because I make the Cajun macaroni and cheese but I should give her recipe a try. Now that I am a little seasoned as a cook now, maybe I can do her recipe some justice. Auntie Cheryl passed away a couple of years ago so she never got to taste my macaroni and cheese.
Finally, I have my own recipe that I have perfected. Everyone loves it. After a visit to Stacked restaurant, I knew that there must be a better recipe out there for Cajun Shrimp Macaroni and Cheese. I first cooked this recipe for my mom, brother, and my boyfriend. At the time we were not together. We were in our dating phase so you know this is the time that you do all the impressing. I knew cooking for him, like most men or anyone who just loves great food being cooked for them, would reel him in. I would try recipes all the time, trying to figure out what seasonings I liked and how they blended with others. After trying this macaroni and cheese, he was hooked. This is his favorite dish that I cook. Everyone in my family raves about it. Hearing the compliments make me stick my chest out more and walk with my head held high. Being able to cook a delicious mac and cheese from scratch and not from the box is an achievement that I am definitely proud of. My grandma and aunt would be proud. If anyone decides to make the following recipe, I hope it brings to you as much joy that it brings to me and my family. When I make this mac & cheese, it is made with so much love and care. “I put my feet in it!”
Large Elbow Macaroni
1 – red bell pepper
1 – red onion
1 tbsp of minced garlic
Parsley( season to your taste buds. I don’t like a lot of parsley.)
1 lb of chicken or chicken tenderloins
1 lb – Extra sharp cheddar cheese
1 lb – Pepper jack cheese
Garlic powder, garlic salt, pepper (season to your liken)
1 stick of unsalted butter (I love Tillamook)
Emerald’s Cajun Seasoning
13 * 9 pan
- Cut up parsley, red onion, and red bell pepper. Cut chicken into chunks. Place to the side. Grate both packages of cheese. Set to the side.
- Season chicken with Cajun seasoning. You can have a heavy wrist with the seasoning.
- Prepare a boiling pot of water for the macaroni. Cook noodles per directions on box.
- Heat a pan with olive oil on medium/high heat. Place garlic into pan with red onion, and bell peppers. Cook for 2-3 minutes and add seasoned chicken to the pan. Cook until the chicken is no longer pink. When done set to the side. Add parsley and stir. * Make sure to not over cook the chicken so that it does not dry out. The chicken will continue to cook in the oven.
- In a small sauce pan, melt a stick of butter. When butter is melted, take off heat and place the cream cheese into pan. Whip cream cheese and butter until smooth in consistency.
- Transfer noodles into pan. Season with garlic powder, garlic salt, and fresh ground pepper. Toss macaroni to make sure all noodles are seasoned.
- Add cream cheese to noodles and mix well. Make sure all noodles are coated with cream cheese.
- Add chicken to macaroni and mix well. Add ½ sharp cheddar and ½ pepper jack to macaroni and mix well.
- Add milk. You want to see milk covering the bottom of the pan. You want your macaroni to be wet. Now sprinkle some flour over the top of the macaroni and mix well.
- Sprinkle the remaining of both cheeses over the macaroni. Sprinkle Panko over the top. Place in the over 30- 35 minutes over until the cheese is melted and the Panko is crispy on top.
- Cool for 5 minutes and be prepared to have your taste buds dancing!!!
- Miller, Adriane. Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at Time. Chapel Hill. University of North Carolina Press, 2013
- “The Forme of Cury”. Gutenburg.org. Retrieved 2010-10-20.
- Ellis-Christensen, Tricia. “What is Macaroni and Cheese Loaf?”.wiseGEEK.
- “Kraft Macaroni & Cheese: A History”. Chicago Tribune. August 14, 2010.
- “Perfect Macaroni and Cheese”. Martha Stewart Living. 66 (February 1999).