This is not your normal run of the mill boxed mac and cheese (although those are pretty delicious), this is pasta baked in a homemade Cheddar and Gruyere béchamel sauce with freshly picked Dungeness crab.
In my opinion mac and cheese should be its own food group, it might just be the perfect food. Everyone loves mac and cheese; pasta mixed with creamy cheese makes even the most sophisticated of palettes happy. You can dress it down by keeping it just pasta and cheese or dress it up by making it a little fancy with tomatoes, prosciutto or even lobster. Since it is Dungeness crab season here in the Bay Area, I want crab in everything I eat and that even applies to my mac and cheese. Adding in sweet Dungeness crab meat might just be the most perfect mac and cheese dish out there.
If you want to impress someone, make this dish. It’s versatile enough to appear on the menu for a romantic dinner, a special-occasion dinner party, or an epic weekend meal. It just may be the perfect elevated comfort food. The rich crab and velvety cheese make it a natural pairing with La Crema’s Sonoma Coast Chardonnay.
If you can’t find crab in your area, no sweat, you can swap in lobster or even bacon or proscuitto (if you decided to go with bacon or proscuitto, just reduce recipe amounts to 1/2lb). Or just leave out the crab all together and make the mac n cheese with the homemade béchamel cheese sauce. You can’t go wrong, anyway you prepare this, I promise it will be delicious.
DUNGENESS CRAB MAC N CHEESE
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Serves: 4
½ pound cavatappi or elbow macaroni
2 cups milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 cups Gruyere cheese, grated
1 cup extra-sharp Cheddar, grated
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
pinch of ground nutmeg
¾ lb pound cooked crab
½ cup toasted breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Add pasta to a large pot of salted boiling water and cook according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well.
Meanwhile, heat the milk over low heat in a small saucepan. In a large pot over medium low heat, melt butter. Once butter has melted add the flour. Cook over for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. Add the hot milk and cook for a minute or two more, whisking continuously until the sauce has thickened and is smooth. Remove from heat and add the Gruyere, Cheddar, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked pasta and crab and stir well. Place the mixture in 4 gratin dishes or a medium sized oven safe dish.
Sprinkle evenly with breadcrumbs and thyme and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the mac n cheese is browned on the top.