Restaurant Recreation: Jambalaya Mac and Cheese [inspired by S'Mac]

Jambalaya Mac & Cheese

In a city where the number of hot new restaurants has surpassed the number of hot single men, I couldn’t help but wonder…has looking for lunch become more important than looking for love?

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Oh hey y’all. Didn’t see you there. I was just honing in on my Carrie Bradshaw writing voice, being that I am currently working my way toward becoming a New York socialite. (Does my use of “y’all” exclude me from New York socialite eligibility?)

Yes, it is only my third week in the city, but I am already making myself at home- if you consider “home” a place where you impulsively and uncontrollably eat and drink yourself sick and broke, occasionally wondering if your cat is the only true friend you have in this world. New York: the concrete jungle where dreams are made of, or, alternatively, smashed into thousands of irreparable pieces. We’ll see where my fate lies.

Truthfully, though, it’s been pretty lovely so far. Weather is great, for now. People have been nice, despite my preconceived notions. I’ve made new friends, reconnected with old ones. Life is good.

One of my biggest issues since moving here has been this, though: there are TOO many places to eat. Like, within a 3 block radius of me, there are at least 30 restaurants, easily. Not to mention that I can have any type of food delivered to me at any time of any day. Even foods that you would never even think were a thing, e.g., this:

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These are spring rolls, but instead of having regular spring roll stuff inside of them, they have mac and cheese inside of them. (I got it late night delivered from a very rad restaurant in my neighborhood, Cafeteria.) So what I’m saying is there are options, and there’s so much cool stuff happening with food in this city that it’s simultaneously overwhelming and inspiring.

In an effort to keep track of my memorable experiences and bring my dining out inspiration back home to my (tiny ass) kitchen, I’ve decided to start recreating some of the most notable dishes I experience with my own recipes. Not to try to upstage or anything, but just, you know, pay homage, or whatever.

Since I’m on a mac and cheese kick (always and forever), this week’s inspiration comes from a great little place in in Murray Hill called S’Mac. They literally only serve mac and cheese, and that’s all they ever need to serve. Each person gets their own individual cast iron skillet overflowing with super cheesy  noodles topped with breadcrumbs and bubbling straight out of the oven. It’s sort of a dream, really.

Their macs come in a variety of flavors, and you can customize your own if you like to go your own way. (Go your own way…Fleetwood MAC…nailed it.)

Oh, or you can just try all of them, in one skillet.

Yeah. If I were to go back, this is the route I would take.

So if you live in New York or are planning a visit, don’t pass this place up. It’s well priced and you get A LOT of food, with a killer happy hour to boot.

Of course, if you don’t, here’s a little something I whipped up to tide you over. It’s inspired by the Cajun Mac I had at S’mac, which to me tasted like a total hybrid between Jambalaya and Mac & Cheese. I know…

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You’ve got the holy trinity in there of celery, bell pepper, and onion, along with big chunks of andouille sausage. Add in some cajun spices, and you’ve got something sort of perfect.

In my riff, I left out the celery (I don’t love it, but if you want to me more authentic you can put it in), and I used red pepper instead of green because they looked better at the store and I just like them better overall. Other than that it’s pretty straightforward- toss some sauteed sausage and veggies with a cajun spiced cheese sauce (I always use Tony’s for cajun seasoning), add some noodles and bake it off until golden brown.

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Jambalaya Mac and Cheese

Worlds have collided, and it’s a beautiful thing.

Jambalaya Mac and Cheese

Ingredients:

1 small yellow onion, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp all-purpose flour

2 cups half-and-half (can substitute whole milk)

1 tbsp cajun seasoning, preferably Tony’s

1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

2 links andouille sausage, sliced

1 lb cellentani pasta, or any type of short cut pasta, cooked one minute less than package instructions

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/2 cup breadcrumbs, preferable panko

Olive oil

Salt, to taste

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Coat a saute pan with olive oil over medium heat and add the sausage. Cook for about 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the meat is nicely browned. Add the onion, pepper, and garlic, season with salt, and let cook for another 5 – 7 minutes, until vegetables are softened. Remove from heat.

In a separate pot, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add flour and whisk it into the butter to create a roux. Let this cook for about a minute, then whisk in the half and half. Let this come to a simmer and thicken, then turn off the heat. Add in cajun seasoning, and slowly stir in the cheese about 1/2 cup at a time.

Combine the sausage mixture into the cheese sauce, and then add the cooked pasta. Stir to combine everything, then transfer to an oven-safe casserole dish. Top with parm and breadcrumbs, drizzle the top with olive oil, and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

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