Being a New Englander, I have a love of crab cakes. Love them sooo much and living in the South, it is very hard to find these delicious morsels.
I was flipping through Rachel Ray’s Week In A Day cookbook and came across the recipe that marries my love of crab cakes and macaroni and cheese. WIN!
I went out and did my grocery shopping yesterday, purchasing only the items I needed for the week’s worth of dinners I had planned. Here is everything one would need for this dish:
- 1 pound cavatappi or elbow pasta with lines on conchiglie (small fat tube/shell shaped pasta with lines)
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 3 ribs celery with leafy tops, finely chopped
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 small red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
- 3 to 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- About 2 tablespoons freshly chopped thyme leaves, several sprigs
- 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 (recommended: Old Bay)
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 cups milk
- Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1/3 pound, about 1 rounded cup grated sharp white Cheddar
- 1/3 pound, about 1 rounded cup shredded Gruyere or Swiss cheese
- 3 tablespoons hot sauce (recommended: Frank’s Red Hot)
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs
- A generous handful flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, a couple of handfuls
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium heat, then salt the water. Add the pasta and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, (it will be undercooked). Cool, drain well and add it to a large bowl.
- Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, 2 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 to 8 minutes. Add the crabmeat to the vegetables and season liberally with seafood seasoning. Stir to combine, then remove from heat.
- In a medium sauce pot, 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, 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.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees 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 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 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 to 45 minutes, but add the crumbs the last 10 minutes of baking.
The final verdict? Oh yes, this is to be on the monthly rotation of dinners. It was a big hit! And there is enough for at least 3 or 4 leftover portions. I highly recommend it!
If you make it, I would love to hear your thoughts!