When I'm getting down to the end of our groceries, mac and cheese is an old standby since I always have some kind of pasta in the cupboard and some kind of cheese in the fridge. But I’m one of those people who feels like if there’s no meat in my meal, I haven’t really eaten. Frozen shrimp and bacon to the rescue!
I could have used different pasta or cheese or added fresh herbs if I’d had any, but the following “recipe” is precisely how I made this dish with the materials I had on hand. That said, it’s also imprecise because I tend to eyeball ingredients rather than measure them out.
15-20 medium shrimp (thawed if frozen), peeled, deveined, and roughly chopped
1/2 lb or so elbow macaroni
2 strips bacon
1 big clove of garlic, minced
1/4 small red onion, minced
small chunk of butter
spoonful of flour
a good glug of brandy
1/2 cup or so of chicken broth
a shot or two of half and half
a big handful of shredded cheddar cheese
a small handful of grated Parmigiano Reggiano
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350. Boil macaroni the usual way and drain.
Meanwhile, in a 12-inch heavy skillet, cook bacon over medium heat, turning a few times, until crisp and then drain on paper towels, leaving rendered grease in the pan.
Add garlic and onion to skillet and sautee over medium-high heat until garlic is fragrant and onion softened, just a minute or two. Add butter and swirl around until melted, then add flour and stir constantly until fully incorporated. Add brandy and chicken broth, let it come to a boil, then lower heat to medium-low and simmer until reduced a bit, 10 minutes or so. Stir in half and half and turn off heat. Mix in cheddar cheese and add salt and pepper to taste; then add raw shrimp (it'll cook in the oven).
Add macaroni to pan and stir everything together. Pour mixture into a buttered casserole and top evenly with Parmigiano Reggiano. Bake for 30 minutes or so, until top is golden and crusty. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes. Chop or crumble the cooked bacon, sprinkle it over the top, and serve.