Crab cake mac and cheese
Baked macaroni and cheese with a Maryland crab cake vibe. Two unhealthy comfort foods magically become one composite nutritional nightmare.
- 16 oz pasta (I prefer cavatappi)
- 4 tbsp salted butter
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 cups milk
- 6 oz white cheddar cheese, shredded
- 6 oz Gruyère cheese, shredded
- 3 tbsp fresh chives, snipped
- 2 tsp Old Bay seasoning
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
- 16 oz lump crab meat
- 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
Anything from 12 to 16 ounces of crab meat will work fine here. A single 16 oz. container of pasteurized refrigerated crab will work, as will 3 6-oz. cans of shelf-stable pasteurized crab, drained. I actually think imitation crab would be perfectly acceptable in this recipe -- but we think surimi is tasty so don't bother if you don't like it.
Substitution hints: Replace 3 tbsp fresh chives with 1 tbsp freeze dried chives if needed. Milk can be substituted with soy or almond milk to reduce lactose. Replace half of milk with half-and-half for a richer dish. Gruyère can be replaced with another semi-firm nutty cheese like Jarlsberg.
Preheat oven to 325°F.
Grate cheddar and gruyère cheeses and blend together. Set aside about 1 cup for topping later.
Melt butter over medium heat in a small saucepan. Add flour and cook into a light roux, whisking constantly, about 3-4 minutes. Add milk, either warmed in advance or cold in small batches, whisking, to form a béchamel sauce. Gradually add grated cheese until it is all incorporated. Cook until the sauce thickens and just begins to boil. Stir in chives, 1 1/2 tsp of Old Bay, garlic and nutmeg. Remove from heat and fold in crab meat.
Meanwhile, boil pasta in salted water until just barely al dente, subtracting 2 minutes or so from the recommended cook time.
Drain cooked pasta and pour into a 9x13 inch glass pan. Add sauce and toss. Top with remaining 1/2 tsp Old Bay, reserved shredded cheese, and panko bread crumbs. Bake for 15-20 minutes. If desired, finish under broiler to brown bread crumbs, though I personally don't see the point unless you're really trying to impress someone.