29 September 2013

Happy Blogaversary to me: Macalaya

130929 Macalaya 1 Good gravy.  Has it really been eight years since I started this blog?  I guess it has been.

I must admit I've been wondering about what to post for a good long time.  Weeks of time.

Then I met someone at a party and we started talking about mac and cheese and I recalled this recipe I in winter's waning weeks.  Of course I searched for it on this blog.

Wait.  What?  I didn't post it?

Oh yeah.  I've been a bit preoccupied.

Then I realised this would be a great recipe for my blogaversary post. No, it's not a fancy-schmancy recipe. That explores a cuisine or marks an adventure. It's simply the result of two simultaneous cravings: jambalaya and mac'n'cheese.  Hardly ground breaking or earth-shattering.  But it's good, unpretentious food.

Isn't what this blog is about? Food-based diarisation of my kitchen adventures--how I feed myself and my friends and family, devoid of marketing and and groupthink influences?  And how better to feed my favourite people, but with experimental hearty comforting food that combines ideas?  After all, if you can't experiment on friends and family, then whom can you experiment on?

For those of you who are list-phobic, you may be hyperventilating at the prospect of organizing 30 ingredients, and making two components (well, three) to make one dish.  But it's all manageable: make a simple Creole-influenced mixed meat stew, then make a cheese sauce, then mix with pasta and bake.  Easy-peasy.

The end result is perfect as cold weather sets in--warming, spiced and perfect shared with favourite people, or curled up on the couch with a very good book.

130929 Macalaya 2_edited-1
Macalaya (or Jambalaya with Macaroni & Cheese)
Serves 4-6


120g (~4.5oz) peeled & deveined shrimp, cut into 1cm/~1/2” pieces
120g (~4.5oz) chicken (dark &/or white meat), cut in 2.5cm/1” cubes
olive oil
1Tbsp tomato paste
½ medium onion, cut into 5mm/1/5” dice
½ medium bell pepper (green/red/yellow), cut into 5mm/1/5” dice
1 celery rib, cut into 5mm/1/5” dice
200g chicken or andouille sausage, innards removed from casings
3-6 garlic cloves, minced (to taste)
120g (125ml) tomatoes, diced (1.5 Roma, 1 beefsteak)
2-3 bay leaves hot sauce (to taste)
5-15ml (1-3tsp) Worcestershire sauce (to taste)
250ml (1c) chicken stock

Jambalaya spicing: 
3.75ml (3/4tsp) paprika
2.5ml (1/2tsp) salt
2.5ml (1/2tsp) garlic powder
1.25ml (1/4tsp) black pepper
1.25ml (1/4tsp) onion powder
1.25ml (1/4tsp) dried oregano
1.25ml (1/4tsp) cayenne powder
1.25ml (1/4tsp) dried thyme

225g (0.5lb) rigatoni or elbow macaroni (see notes)

Cheese sauce: 
28g (1oz/2Tbsp) butter
28g (1oz/3Tbsp) ap flour
1/8 tsp cayenne (or to taste)
300ml (1c + 4Tbsp + 1tsp) half &half
85ml (1/3c) chicken broth

Cheese mix (see notes): 
100g (3.5oz/1c) shredded old cheddar
100g (3.5oz/1c) shredded mozzarella
100g (3.5oz/1c) shredded Gruyere

salt and pepper (to taste)

Start with the jambalaya:
Toss the chicken and shrimp into the seasoning and let sit as you prepare the rest of the jambalaya--be sure to put the shrimp in a separate bowl as it's one of the last ingredients used. Pour heat a bit of oil in a pan, add the tomato paste and fry until the paste tinges to a brick red. Remove from pan.

Slick the bottom of the pan with oil and sweat the onion, celery and bell pepper. Once translucent, add the sausage and par cook. Add garlic, stirring until the air becomes fragrant with its oils. Add fried paste, tomatoes, bay leaves, hot sauce, 5ml/1tsp Worcestershire sauce and chicken stock. Bring to a boil while stirring.  Once it bubbles, turn down heat and let simmer for about five minutes add the chicken and coat with the sauce, stir and cook until the chicken is cooked. Turn hob to low, balance flavours to taste.

Prepare the pasta cooking water as you get on with the cheese sauce:
You can either use salted water or use ratio of 1:1 water to chicken stock. Regardless, the water should be as salty as the sea. Once the liquid comes to a boil, add the pasta and cook to al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving about half a cup of cooking water.

For the cheese sauce:
Mix the cream with the chicken stock.

Melt the butter over high heat until foamy. Stir in cayenne and flour and cook until the mix I blonde (well, strawberry blonde, given the cayenne). Slowly whisk in the stock mixtures until smooth. Bring to a boil and then reduce the flame to medium. Let simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the mixture is slightly thickened. Remove from heat, add cheeses, a pinch of salt and a couple of pinches of pepper and whisk until melted. Balance flavours to taste (keeping in mind the pasta and jambalaya are already seasoned). Keep warm until baking.

Time to bring it all together:
Preheat oven to 200C/400F; 180C (fan-assist)/375F(fan-assist)

Butter a 3L/3Q (eg: 33cmx23cm/13”x9”) oven proof dish.

Mix the hot cooking water into the jambalaya. Add the shrimp. Mix with the cooked pasta. Tumble into prepared dish and pour the cheese sauce onto the pasta. Swirl it all together so the macalaya is well mixed. Bake for about 20 minutes. Turn off the oven and let sit for another 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven let cool on the counter for about 15minutes before serving.


  • Pasta: You can cook it in the usual way, or you can cook it in a weaker broth in a 1:1 ratio of water to chicken broth
  • Cheese mix: flavours aren’t set in stone, but you want a combined volume of about 3c
  • Jambalaya spicing: if you don't want to make your own masala, then use 15ml/1Tbsp of your favourite Cajun spice mix.

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