Monday, November 12, 2012

Crabby Mac 'n' Cheese

On Saturday night, in spite of the snow storm, we met a few friends for pizza, and when we walked into the restaurant entryway, people huddled all around the benches, heads down, hands playing with their iPhones, the glowing screens shining up from just about everyone's lap.  It's a sight that really annoyed me, to be honest, because I feel like iPhones (while I love the convenience of mine) have replaced eye contact and conversations.

My brother and sister and I were such avid readers as kids, that my parents had to remind us to put down the books we brought to the dinner table.  Maybe the distraction wasn't that different from having iPhones to play with, but I'm sure we were exercising our minds a little more.

I'd hardly be a normal person if I didn't admit that as a kid, I loved the unnaturally orange boxed macaroni and cheese with cut up hot dogs mixed in.  It wasn't quite in my top picks of all-time favorite kid foods like frozen fish sticks and tater tots with piles of ketchup, but it was one of those meals that made a night at home feel warm and cozy and complete.

Although, a pile of mushy, unidentifiably-shaped mixed vegetables from the freezer was probably forced on me along with the cheesy pasta and hot dogs, which totally negated any pleasure I could take in the meal.

Lobster mac 'n' cheese seems to be a popular trend lately, but for something different, as well as less expensive, I thought I would try baking it with lump crab.  Three varieties of cheese, a good amount of buttermilk and some spices like smoked paprika, garlic, cayenne and crushed red pepper definitely elevated this to a a whole new level that the boxed variety could never hope to reach.  And the crispy topping of Panko crumbs and crumbled bacon added the perfect crunch on top.

No orange powder mixed in, and no mushy mixed vegetables, just a side of crispy, garlicky roasted broccoli.

The only trouble was, I made way too much for just two people, and after eating it for three different meals, we'd about had our fill of mac 'n' cheese for a while...

Crabby Mac 'n' Cheese
printable recipe

  • 3/4 pound macaroni noodles, cooked and drained
  • 3/4 pound Lump Crab
  • 2 cups buttermilk (2% or whole)
  • 2 cups milk (2% or whole)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 pound grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 pound grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan, divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce, your favorite brand
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
  • 6 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1 1/2 cups Panko crumbs

Preheat the oven to 350 and spray a 9x13 pan with non-stick spray.

In a large bowl, combine the macaroni and crab; in a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, milk, eggs, cheddar cheese, mozzarella cheese, half the Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, crushed red pepper and hot sauce.  Combine with the macaroni and crab and spread evenly in the pan.  Dot with the butter.  Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes until the sauce is thick and creamy. 

Remove the foil, and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan, bacon, and Panko.  Bake for 15 minutes more, uncovered, until golden brown.

Yields 6-8 servings

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen