I have to admit when I first heard of crab or lobster in mac and cheese I was a bit hesitant about the idea. I love crab and I love mac and cheese, but putting them together? Hhmmmmm. However so many people I talked to told me that it was great that I decided I just had to give it a try.
The thing I love about my family, well not the ONLY thing but one of them, is that they are pretty much game for whatever I want to make. Even Jessi, my little Miss Picky, will try them. She makes no promises that she will eat more than one bite, but very rarely does she totally dislike anything of the recipes I try. I even got my Dad to take a bite of this. He doesn't like fish, so it wasn't his cup of tea, but he did give it a taste. I was proud of him!
Kevin is my best eater, he supports whatever meal I want to make. He never tells me something is good if it isn't because he knows that is no help, but he really does like just about anything I make for him. Gotta love a receptive audience right?
The first time I made this I used Rachael Ray's recipe for Crab Cake Mac N Cheese. You can check out the original recipe on my other blog Bobbi Renee and Rachael Ray. It was really good, but I just felt there were a few things I wanted to "tweak" so this recipe was born.
If you love crab you will love this recipe. I sent quite a bit of the leftovers in to work with my son the next night and he said all of his coworkers demolished it!
1 pound cavatappi pasta (you can use elbows if you can't find cavatappi)
2 tablespoons extr-virgin olive oil
6 tablespoons butter
3 ribs celery with the leafy ends left on, finel chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
4 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
2 lemons, zested
The juice of half a lemon
Ground black pepper
1 pound fresh lump crab meat ( I used Dungeness), picks free of shells and flaked
1 heaping tablespoon seafood seasoning (I use Old Bay), a healthy palmful
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dry white wine ( a couple of glugs around the pan)
2 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/3 pound white cheddar cheese, grated
1/3 pound Gruyere cheese, grated (can substitute Swiss cheese)
3 tablespoons hot sauce (I used Frank's Red Hot)
1 cup panko bread crumbs
A generous handful flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cup grated Parmigian cheese
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt. Add the pasta and cook just shy of al dente. Drain and reserve.
Heat a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the celery, onion, red pepper, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, lemon zest and juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the crabmeat to the veggies and season with the seafood seasoning. Stir to combine then remove from the heat.
In a medium sauce pot, over medium heat, melt 3 tablespoons of butter and then whisk in the flour. Cook for a minute, then whisk in the white wine, cook for another minute and then add the milk. Bring to a bubble. Season the sauce with salt, pepper, and the nutmeg. 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 pasta, veggie and crab mixture, and the sauce to a bowl, combine, and transfer to a casserole dish.
Melt a couple of tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan over low heat then add the 3 tablespoons of hot sauce, stir until warm throughout. Add the panko bread crumbs and stir/toss to evenly coat the crumbs with the hot sauce mixture. Cool the crumbs then add the parsley and 1/2 cup Parmisian cheese. Top the mac and cheese with the crumb mixture and bake until brow, about 10 minutes.
Serves 4 to 6