RECIPE

Crab Cake Mac ‘n Cheese

Capture the attention of family and guests with this classy culinary delight of luscious crab meat and triple creamy cheeses topped with spicy panko breadcrumbs.

Ingredients

  • Salt
  • 1 pound cavatappi or elbow pasta with lines or conchiglie (small fat tube/shell shaped pasta with lines)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 6 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 3 ribs celery with leafy tops, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 small red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • About 2 tablespoons thyme leaves (several sprigs), freshly chopped
  • About 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 pound fresh lump crabmeat, picked for shells and flaked
  • 1 tablespoon seafood seasoning, such as Old Bay
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 pound grated sharp white cheddar cheese (about 1 rounded cup)
  • 1/3 pound shredded Gruyère or Swiss cheese (about 1 rounded cup)
  • 3 tablespoons hot sauce, such as Frank’s Red Hot brand
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • A generous handful of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (a couple of handfuls)

Preparation

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium heat, then salt the water. Add the pasta and cook for 3-4 minutes (it will be undercooked). Cool, drain well and add it to a large bowl.

Meanwhile, in a medium size saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of EVOO, two turns of the pan, and 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium to medium-high heat. Add the celery, onion, red pepper, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, lemon zest, salt and pepper, to taste. Cook to tender, 6-8 minutes. Add the crabmeat to the vegetables and season liberally with seafood seasoning. Stir to combine, then remove from the heat.

In a medium size saucepot over low heat, melt 3 tablespoons butter and whisk in the flour. Cook for 1 minute, then whisk in the milk and bring to a bubble. Season the sauce with salt, pepper and nutmeg, to taste, and cook for a few minutes, until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Add the mustard and the cheese and stir in a figure 8 motion. Add the vegetables and crab and sauce to the bowl with the pasta and transfer the mixture to individual baking crocks or a large casserole dish. This can be made ahead to this point and refrigerated.

Pre-heat the oven to 375°F.

To complete the dish, melt a couple of tablespoons butter in a small skillet over low heat and add 3 tablespoons hot sauce. Warm through, then add the panko crumbs and toss to evenly coat the crumbs in the sauce mixture. Cool the crumbs, then toss in the parsley and 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Top the mac ‘n cheese with the spicy crumb mixture.


Arrange individual crocks on a baking sheet or put the casserole on a baking sheet to catch any drips. Bake until brown and heated through, about 10 minutes. If cooking from cold, the mac ‘n cheese will take 40-45 minutes, but add the crumbs during the last 10 minutes of baking.

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