Andouille Mac & Cheese

Andouille Mac & Cheese Gridiron Grindage

Over the weekend, the angels were singing, the flowers were in bloom, the stars aligned, and everything was right in the world…College Football returned!

For most of you, this is a non-event. For us at Piedmont Grocery, it’s kind of a big deal. For the next 4-5 months (depending on who makes the playoffs) the trash talking and marching song playing will provide a much needed distraction from our daily lives.

For those customers who have experienced the store in the Fall at 9 AM on Mondays, you will know what I mean. You never know which fight song you might hear. It could be Fight for California…though that’s pretty rare. And I make sure that Mighty Oregon gets it fair playtime. It’s a fun tradition—though there are a couple of songs that should be retired…USC’s Fight On for one.

The fun is not limited to the store. My family is pretty Cookoo for Cocoa Puffs about college football. In fact, we gathered at my sister’s over the weekend, dressed in our finest maroon and gold, to watch Dad’s Trojans play Alabama. (Well, some of us. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I almost broke out in hives.) And I, of course, was wearing my green.

No matter what color we were wearing, all of us agreed that the football food we ate was fantastic. I brought a mac n’ cheese recipe, Andouille Mac & Cheese, that I had been dying to try, and it was soooo good. Definitely not diet but perfect for a tailgate or game day buffet.

Andouille Mac & Cheese
Adapted from Food & Wine
Serves 4

For the Cheese Sauce
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped thyme
Pinch of cayenne
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of white pepper
1 1/2 cups shredded mild white cheddar (6 ounces)
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar (6 ounces)
Sea salt
Black pepper

For the Andouille Mixture
3 tablespoons canola oil
6 ounces andouille sausage, diced
3/4 cup finely diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup finely diced onion
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions, plus more for garnish
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro, plus leaves for garnish
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley

For the Pasta
1 pound medium pasta shells
Hot sauce
Thinly sliced hot red chilies or jalapeños, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 450°.

Make the Sauce
In a small saucepan, bring the milk and heavy cream to a simmer. Then, keep it warm over very low heat.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and cook over moderate heat until bubbling, (about 1 to 2 minutes). Add the garlic, thyme, cayenne, nutmeg and white pepper, and whisk until the roux is lightly browned, (about 3 to 5 minutes).

Gradually whisk in the milk and cream until the sauce is smooth and bring to a boil.

Simmer over moderate heat, whisking, until no floury taste remains, (about 5 to 7 minutes.)

Remove from the heat and whisk in the mild cheddar and 1/2 cup of the sharp cheddar. Season the cheese sauce with salt and black pepper.

Make the Andouille Mixture
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in the skillet. Add the andouille, bell pepper and onion and cook over moderate heat until the vegetables are lightly browned, (about )5 minutes. Stir in the 1/4 cup of sliced scallions and the chopped cilantro and parsley.

Make the Pasta
In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain well, then return the pasta to the pot. Stir in the cheese sauce and the andouille mixture. Season with hot sauce and salt and black pepper.

Assemble the Dish
Spoon the pasta into four 12-ounce gratin dishes set on a baking sheet. Top with the remaining 1 cup of sharp cheddar. Bake until piping hot, (about 15 to 20 minutes).

Let stand for 5 minutes. Garnish with scallions, cilantro and red chiles, and serve with hot sauce.

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