CAJUN SHRIMP AND CRAB MAC AND CHEESE

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I made this mac and cheese for Christmas dinner last year, and it was a HIT! The fact that my entire family enjoyed it was such a big deal, because black folks don’t play when it comes to mac and cheese. Let’s be real.

Since it’s gotten so many positive reviews, this has now become my go-to macaroni recipe!

While the macaroni was boiling, I made the Cajun shrimp. I used a whole 2 pounds of shrimp for this recipe, because I wanted – no I NEEDED to have shrimp all throughout the entire pasta. I don’t know about you, but I HATE having shrimp dishes where there’s only like…..3 pieces of shrimp and the rest is just plain old pasta. It’s disrespectful.

INGREDIENTS
CAJUN SHRIMP:
2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined (if frozen, thawed)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 Tbsp cajun seasoning
Pinch of Salt
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
MAC AND CHEESE:
3 cups elbow macaroni, uncooked
2Ibs Fresh Crab legs, cooked OR 2 and 1/2 cups imitation crab meat, diced
1/4 cup fresh or dried basil + more for topping
1 cup whole milk
2 – 2 and 2/3 cups evaporated milk
1/2 – 1 tsp Paprika, or to taste (see notes)
1/4 – 1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper, or to taste (see notes)
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
2 large eggs, beaten
4 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
2 cups mild cheddar cheese, grated
2 cups colby & monterey jack cheese, grated
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
Cajun seasoning, for topping

INSTRUCTIONS
FOR THE CAJUN SHRIMP:
Read the notes before beginning the recipe.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. In a medium bowl, add shrimp, olive oil, cajun seasoning, and a pinch of salt and pepper and toss to combine and coat the shrimp.
Once skillet is hot, add shrimp and cook, stirring constantly until shrimp is pink, 4-6 minutes. Set aside.
FOR THE PASTA:
Preheat oven to 350F (177C). Lightly butter a 9×13-inch baking dish and set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add macaroni and cook until al dente (look at package directions to see how long it takes). Do not overcook.
Drain well and transfer cooked pasta to a large bowl. Mix in Cajun shrimp, crab chunks and basil. Set aside.
FOR THE CHEESE/MILK MIXTURE:
In a large bowl, add milk and evaporated milk and whisk to combine. Add paprika, cayenne, salt and pepper and whisk to combine. Taste the milk and adjust the seasonings to your liking. Once you’re satisfied with the taste, add the eggs and beat until mixture is combined.
Set aside 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup of colby & monterey, and 1/2 cup of Parmesan. Add the remaining cheese to the milk mixture and stir to combine.
ASSEMBLY OF THE MAC AND CHEESE:
Pour cheese mixture into macaroni and stir to combine. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish. Top with reserved cheeses. Sprinkle more basil, paprika, salt, pepper and Cajun seasoning on top (optional).
Bake for 45-55 minutes or until top is golden. Cover the top with foil around the 35-40 minute mark, making sure it doesn’t touch the cheese. Remove from oven and let it sit for about 25-30 minutes to set before serving.
NOTES
I highly recommend altering the amount of spices to YOUR taste. The amount I added was perfect for mine and my family’s taste, however that may not be the same for you so please taste the milk and add more of the spices to your liking.
If using fresh (cooked) crab legs, remove the meat from the shell and cut it into small chunks before adding it to the pasta. You may end up with less than 2 and 1/2 cups, which is fine. The 2 pounds of shrimp make up for that!
For the evaporated milk, you can use anywhere from 2 to 2 and 2/3 cups, depending on how creamy you want the mac and cheese. I used 2 and 2/3 cups of milk because I wanted the mac and cheese to be super creamy!

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