Dungeness Crab Mac and Cheese
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- 2 Dungeness crab or 16 ounces lump crabmeat
- 5 cups grated cheddar cheese
- 1 pound penne pasta
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup minced shallot
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 cups whole milk
- 2 fresh bay leaves, or 1 dried
- 1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1/8 teaspoon saffron mixed with
- 1 tablespoon hot water
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
Cooking the pasta in the crab cooking water will infuse the pasta with essentially a crab stock, significantly increasing the flavor of the final dish. Or, if you’re feeling flush and haven’t been crabbing lately, use lump crabmeat.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13 x 9-inch baking dish with butter. Fill the sink with ice water.
- Cook crab by boiling in a large pot of salted water for about 7 minutes per pound (start the timer after the water has come to the boil again). While crab cooks, grate the cheese and set aside. Pull the crab out of the cooking water and chill them in the ice water. Strain the crab cooking water and return to a boil to cook the pasta. Cook the pasta in the strained crab cooking water until al dente and set aside. Remove the chilled crabmeat from the shells; you should have between 8 and 12 ounces of crabmeat.
- In a large saucepot over medium low heat, melt the butter and add the shallots. Cook for 1 minute. Whisk in the flour gradually and reduce the heat to medium low. Cook and the roux until it starts to smell nutty, about 5 minutes. Gradually add the 3 cups cold milk while continuing to stir. Increase the heat to medium high and add bay leaves, paprika, saffron water, tomato paste, cayenne, and Dijon mustard. Simmer gently until sauce is lightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove bay leaves, add cheese and melt into sauce. Taste for seasoning.
- Off the heat, fold in crabmeat and cooked pasta. Dump this heart-stoppingly delicious concoction into the casserole. Mix the panko with lemon zest, parsley and melted 1/4 cup butter in a small bowl. Top pasta with panko mixture and bake mac and cheese for about 30 minutes, until bubbly and browned on the top.
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