Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sunday Supper: Crab Cake Macaroni and Cheese

One of my favorite childhood memories stems from all the time I was lucky enough to spend as a kid with one of the most amazing women I know, my grandma Watson. She was a nurse in World War 2, raised my mom all on her own, and was absolutely the most fun person to hang out with when I was a kid, along with her sister, my aunt Hazel. When my brother and I visited her house for sleepovers it was all about what we wanted to do. I would make magazines with aunt Hazel, we'd play cards and lots of games including Tripoli and Sorry, and on New Year's Eve every year we would dance and party until the ball dropped. She truly made me feel like there was nothing else in the world she would rather be doing than hang out with my brother and I.

Along with all the great times we spent with her, I have great memories of food. We used to make delicious sugar cookies with frosting in fun shapes. I still remember exactly what all her cookie cutters looked like. She made the most amazing bread and butter pickles which I only hope to get the recipe for one of these days. And finally, something my brother would eat every day if he could, her macaroni and cheese. It wasn't anything special and was made with good old Velveeta cheese but it was so creamy and delicious and perfect every time she made it. This mac and cheese was such a huge part of my childhood that any time I see mac and cheese anywhere, it always takes me back to all of the great times I spent with my Grandma Watson. I think of her often and miss her a ton, but I'm so glad that I have so many memories that I will be able to share with my family one day through her recipes.

I saw this recipe on a Rachel Ray show recently. I don't really care for Rachel Ray and was telling the hubs that we should change the channel but then she said she'd be making crab cake mac and cheese. Between my love/warm fuzzies for mac and cheese and my love for crab cakes, I couldn't bare to change the channel. It looked so good that I had to give it a shot! I thought it'd be a perfect twist on my grandma's classic and perfect for Sunday Supper! The dish isn't terribly cheesy, which is a good thing because you really want the crab to be the star player. The panko gives it a little crunch and the hot sauce adds the perfect touch of heat. It turned out SO delish and definitely something that I'll make again. The only downfall is that it dirties quite a few dishes but it's so good and your hunny will be so satisf that I bet you could easily talk him into doing all the clean up!

Crab Cake Mac and Cheese

1lb elbow pasta
2 tbsp olive oil
6 tbsp butter
3 ribs celery, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp thyme (2 tbsp if fresh)
about 1 tbsp lemon zest
freshly ground black pepper
3/4 to 1lb jumbo fresh crab meat (picked through for shells)
1 tbsp old bay
3 tbsp flour
2 1/2 cups milk
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 cup sharp cheddar, grated
1 cup gruyere, grated
3 tbsp (or to taste) hot sauce
1 cup panko bread crumbs
fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions, about 2-3 minutes less so pasta is undercooked (it will cook more in the oven) and drain. Add to a large bowl.

In a saucepan heat 2 tbsp of olive oil and 1 tbsp of butter over medium high heat. Add celery, onion, red pepper, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, lemon zest, salt, and pepper to taste. Cook until tender, 6-8 minutes. Add crab meat and season liberally with old bay. Stir to combine and remove from heat.

In a saucepan over low heat, melt 3 tbsp butter and whisk in flour. Cook for 1 minute then whisk in milk until just starting to boil. Season with salt and pepper and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring so as not to burn, until cream sauce starts to thicken. Add mustard and cheese. Stir until cheese is melted. Add cream sauce and vegetable mixture to bowl with pasta and stir to blend together.

Spoon mixture into a large casserole dish or into small individual baking crocks. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Melt 2 tbsp butter in a saucepan. Add hot sauce and bread crumbs and toss to coat. Remove from heat and cool enough to handle then add parmesan. Top pasta mixture with bread crumb mixture and bake until heated through and bread crumbs are golden brown, about 10 minutes.

Recipe adapted from Rachel Ray on The Cooking Channel

1 comment:

  1. Not only does this recipe sound amazing, but I just love reading about Grandma Watson. She sounds just perfect!