Thursday, May 15, 2014

Macaroni & Cheese with Spanish Chorizo & Grilled Chicken Tapas

Are you surprised to see macaroni & cheese on My Carolina Kitchen? Not nearly as surprised as I was the day I ordered it at a tapas bar. It just doesn’t sound like something I would do, does it? I normally go for healthy dishes like seafood and salads. Here’s how it happened.

One afternoon last month we went to see a simulcast of Puccini's opera La Boheme Live from the Met HD series and on the way home from the theater we stopped by one of our new favorite spots in Fort Myers, Cru in the Bell Tower Shops (the same place I discovered the fabulous Caesar kale salad featured a couple of weeks ago here). It was too late for lunch and too early for dinner, but we joined the others in the bar for tapas. One of the tapas specials caught my eye - macaroni and cheese with Spanish chorizo and grilled chicken tapas.

For some reason lately and I don’t know why, I’ve been fascinated with chorizo. Do you ever get on a food kick and not sure why? Anyway, I ordered the macaroni and cheese tapas with the chorizo. It took only one bite and I was truly blown away. The flavors of the smoky chorizo coupled with the creamy macaroni paired very well with the grilled chicken and cheese. I insisted that Meakin try it (before I ate the whole thing myself) even though he kept telling me that he was busy with his two tapas - tuna tartare and short ribs. He basically ignored me until I nagged and nagged him. He finally gave in and had a taste. He was as impressed as I was and agreed that we should try to duplicate it at home. So here it is.    

I baked the macaroni in individual ramekins just as they did at Cru, but a large ovenproof casserole would work fine. Be sure to use the Spanish chorizo, a cured smoked sausage and not to be confused with the Mexican version of chorizo, a fresh ground pork sausage that must be cooked before eating. This is a very substantial tapas dish with 3 cheeses and 2 meats and serves six to eight. We served it with an arugula salad dressed in a lemony vinaigrette and called it lunch.

Macaroni & Cheese with Spanish Chorizo & Grilled Chicken Tapas
Inspired by Cru in Fort Myers, Florida 
Serves 6 to 8
Printable recipe

10 ounce grilled boneless skinless chicken breast
7 ounces of fully cooked Spanish style cured smoked chorizo sausage
1 pound of small corkscrew rotini or similar small pasta
4 ounces Gruyere cheese, thinly sliced
6 to 8 individual ceramic ramekins, depending on their size (I used 7 ounce ramekins similar to these but square)
Softened butter for greasing the ramekins

After the chicken has cooled, cut it up along with the chorizo into bite size pieces and set aside. Cook pasta in boiling salted water according to the package directions until al dente. Drain and rinse the pasta quickly to stop the cooking. Place in a large bowl and set aside while you make the sauce.

Adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything

2 ½ cups milk
2 bay leaves
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups freshly grated sharp Cheddar cheese
½ cup freshly grated Havarti cheese
½ cup freshly grated Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cook the milk with the bay leaves in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. In about 5 minutes or so when small bubbles appear along the sides, turn the heat off and let the milk stand.

In another small saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter over medium-low heat. When the butter is foamy, add the flour and cook, stirring until the mixture browns, about 5 minutes or so. Remove the bay leaves from the milk and add about ¼ cup of the milk to the hot flour mixture, whisking all the while. As soon as the mixture becomes smooth, add a little more milk and continue to do so until all the milk is used up and the mixture is thick and smooth. Add the Cheddar and havarti and stir well to combine.

To assemble:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Pour the sauce over the cooked noodles, toss in the Parmesan, grilled chicken and chorizo pieces, stir until combined, then season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Grease the custard cups with the butter and turn the noodle mixture into the cups. Top with slices of Gruyere cheese and bake the macaroni and cheese mixture in the oven (I put the ramekins on a sheet pan) until the Gruyere melts and the macaroni is heated through, about 15 minutes. Serve hot.

I highly recommend Cru if you find yourself in the greater Fort Myers / Cape Coral / Naples, Florida area.  It’s an upscale restaurant located in the Bell Tower Shops and reservations for the restaurant are a must during season, link here. Feel free to stop by their outside lounge or the bar inside any time you are in the area and no reservations are needed there. Or do what we did and enjoy their Tapas Bar, menu here plus daily specials, during Happy Hour from 4 to 7. Cru is a real happening place.

This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, & Foodie Friday at Simple Recipes. 

Have a great weekend everyone.


  1. Oh the gruyere must put it in a class of it's own:)
    Jacques loves chorizo..he is such a sausage person..:)
    Isn't it fun to try something we don't normally eat and get such a kick out of it:)
    The fact you came home and recreated it says it all Sam.
    My daughter is such a tuna tartare,,salmon tartare..steak tartare..shrimp tartare girl.
    I would have had your upscale mac and cheese;)
    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Tasty and comforting! A wonderful and refined mac & cheese.



  3. Comfort food jazzed up!! We, too, have been enjoying "being" at The Met and saw La Boheme as well. What a great idea it is!


    1. Wow! This sounds delicious, perfect comfort food. I understand what you mean about the chorizo as I eat pretty healthy most of the time except when it comes to dishes with bacon.

  4. Chorizo is great, so is mac and cheese, making this is a perfect comfort food dish. I love that sauce and the cookbook too! Have a wonderful day, Sam!

  5. What is not to love! Beautiful dish Sam. Indulgence is okay sometimes and this looks well worth it.

  6. That sounds so good! I love mac and cheese and adding chorizo makes this a notch above for sure!

  7. A good cheese sauce is one of my food weaknesses. I'm always looking for a new way to prepare mac and cheese - a family favorite. Sounds like you found a fun new restaurant.

  8. Mmmm. It looks cheesy, decadent, and delicious!

  9. Sam, This is one really up scale mac 'n cheese entree! It sounds terrific! Most mac 'n cheese is sort of boring but this one has to just set off the flavor buds in one's mouth... We'll have to give it a try ourselves. Thanks and Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

  10. Mac and cheese with chorizo...what's not to love this beautiful and comforting treat.
    Thanks for sharing, Sam.

  11. Desde luego que el CHORIZO, da un sabor exquisito a cualquier plato. Y estos macarrones vuestros, siendo españoles aún más, jaja ¿porque será?

  12. I love macaroni cheese and these additions sound wonderful. Have a good day Diane

  13. This looks awesome Sam and as a fan of chorizo i will have to try it.

  14. I have always loved macaroni and cheese. We do get a fantastic chorirzo here, it will be a shame if I don't make your looks delicious AND quick on the table...whicjh is an important part of a good recipe!

  15. What fun, Sam. I've noticed mac and cheese is often listed on the sides section in restaurants these days. I've never ordered it as there are so many other delicious sounding veg sides that I know I can't manage to eat both. But yours? Would love to try it for dinner. YUM!

  16. Oh my dear, you have taken tapas to new heights! I must pass this on to my daughter, the macaroni and cheese expert.

    I always keep chorizo in my pantry. You can get the small ones, they come four or five in a pack, at the grocery store. The brand is El Quijote. I add them to pizza, eggs, rice etc. What makes them so flavorful is the pimenton or Spanish paprika. Welcome to chorizoland!

  17. I'm going to try this, but without the chorizo. I'm not as taken with it as you. Our Fresh Market frequently has a really delicious lobster mac and cheese. Very easy to make...just heat it up.

  18. How could anyone resist a mac and cheese as wonderful as this? I would have also ordered it! W

    Wasn't the HD simulcast of la Boheme wonderful? My husband and I also watched it it here.

  19. What a wonderful version of Macaroni and Cheese. I love chorizo, and I too get on a food kick every now and again, where I just can not get enough of something. Thanks for the inspiration!

  20. Every now and then we have to splurge a little :) My husband also loves chorizo. It's just a little too spicy for me. The mac and cheese does look really good. A perennial comfort food!

  21. That sounds totally amazing! I'm always amused that my DIL's mac w/ 4 cheeses is the perennial favorite at our Christmas party -- everyone's favorite comfort food.

  22. Doesn't it make you crazy when you can't get them to take just one little bite to try something??? Just one itty bitty bite. I can never exactly figure out the reasoning. :) I think this dish sounds amazing and I'm pinning it to try very soon. Love the small portion tapas idea.

  23. What a fun, unique and delicious lunch Sam, I love it! And I love that you figured out how to make this at home!

  24. It's great to indulge every once in a while, and this mac and cheese looks outrageously delicious!

  25. mac and cheese with spicy chorizo? A dream come true! Such a wonderful treat to my husband it would be. Love your take on it

  26. Hi Sam,
    We love Mac and Cheese and to pair it with Chorizo is a fabulous idea. Your dish looks delicious and we will be trying it very soon here at the cottage. Thanks so much for sharing this great recipe with Full Plate Thursday and have a great week!
    Come Back Soon!
    Miz Helen

  27. I've been cooking a lot with chorizo too.. it adds so much flavor, you don't need much. Thanks for sharing a terrific recipe with us on foodie friday. Pinned.

  28. Mac and cheese is the key to my heart! This looks oh so deliciously amazing!

  29. Mac and cheese is one of my favorite comfort foods ( along with cobblers). I like the idea of a mac n'cheese that is given hearty adult ingredients. Chroizo would give it just enough kick to bring mac and cheese to another level.


  30. You always come up with interesting recipes and my boys would like this. What a great idea to add Chorizo to Mac and Cheese.

  31. The addition of chorizo really amps up the flavor and sounds great.


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