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Crab Macaroni & Cheese

March 10, 2014

Crab Mac & Cheese (3)MARCH 9th, 2014 — This less indulgent interpretation of lobster mac & cheese I had in Las Vegas earlier this year. (That dish also had truffle salt as well.)

So what did you do?
First, I actually made the croutons (to substitute for breadcrumbs). I got some mini ciabatta rolls, but any crusty rustic bread will do. I chopped and ripped 3-4 little rolls to make about 1 1/2 cups of mini-croutons. I then spread them out on a tray, drizzled them with olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt, pepper, and dried basil, and baked them for 12 minutes at 350 degrees.

I then boiled and drained 16 oz. elbow macaroni in 16 cups salted water to al dente (aka just slightly firmer, since the pasta will continue to cook in hot sauce.) Make sure to rinse the pasta in cold water to inhibit further cooking.

Meanwhile, for the sauce, I whisked in a saucepan:

  • 2 cups low-fat 1% milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1tsp salt
  • ground pepper, to taste
  • 3 tbsp flour

I returned the macaroni to its large pot, and stirred in 2 tbsp butter. This is just to make the whole dish smoother.
I then poured in the milk mixture, and then added 1 1/4 cups shredded white cheddar and 1/2 cup shredded parmesan. I also gave a few healthy squirts of lemon juice.

Tip: I also added in 2 tsp ground nutmeg, which you can’t noticeably see, but it makes a difference, and is, according to Ina Garten, a traditional ingredient in French gratins.

I stirred until the sauce and cheese was well incorporated, and then added in about 3/4 cup diced scallions and then a packet of 10 oz. of lump crab meat.

When serving, grind some extra black pepper and top with the crunchy lemon croutons.

Result? Crab is such a great meat to put in mac & cheese. It integrates with the cheese so it’s not like adding little bits of bacon or sausage to a good mac & cheese. The crab really defines this homey macaroni dish.

I think more successful were the baked lemon croutons. To hell with store-bought purely crunchy croutons now. It’s crunchy, but when you bite, the hard outer layer gives way to a warm chewy center, clearly indicating that this crouton was previously a good piece of bread.

I served the dish with sauteed brussel sprouts and cauliflower florets dressed in a dijon-balsamic vinaigrette.

Lessons learned?
If I had had more energy, perhaps I could have added green peas to the dish for some extra color and texture. I also think choosing a more texture pasta like cavatappi would have helped.

I followed a recipe from Alton Brown, mainly because it was simpler, but it didn’t require me to make a roux, which is cooking flour and butter together as the base of your sauce to make it thicker. And I suspect that if I had made a roux as the base of my cheese sauce, the overall sauce would have been thicker and it would have given the pasta a nice thick coating of cheese sauce rather than mixing more with the crab meat.

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