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Dungeness Crab Mac-and-Cheese

Updated February 23, 2016
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Cookbook

Good Fish

Published by Sasquatch Books

If you get the chance to go crabbing and have yourself a good day, you’re going to be in the enviable position of having a ton of crabmeat on your hands. That is the perfect time to pull out this recipe. Everyone loves mac-and-cheese, but adding sweet crabmeat-that’s just ridiculously awesome. My secret for making this dish extra flavorful is to cook the pasta in the same water as I cooked the crab. As the pasta cooks, it absorbs the crab “stock,” which then flavors the pasta from within.

Go to www.goodfishbook.com for a demonstration of how to clean live Dungeness crab.

PAIRING: A California chardonnay, such as Lioco 2007, Sonoma County, or a white Burgundy.

Serves4 to 6

Cooking Methodbaking

CostSplurge

Challenging

Total Timeunder 2 hours

OccasionCasual Dinner Party

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationmain course

Mealdinner

Moodblue

Taste and Texturecheesy, creamy, crisp, savory

Type of Dishbaked pasta, pasta

Ingredients

  • 2 to 3 live Dungeness crabs, or about ¾ pound crabmeat
  • 1 pound good-quality cheddar cheese (I like a mix of medium and sharp)
  • ¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup minced shallots
  • ¼ cup all purpose flour
  • 3 cups whole milk, cold
  • 2 fresh bay leaves, or 1 dried
  • ¼ teaspoon regular or smoked paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon saffron, mixed with 1 tablespoon hot water
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 pound elbow or penne pasta
  • 1 cup panko
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest (about 1 large lemon)
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • ¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with butter. Fill the sink with ice water.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the crabs. Once the water has returned to a boil, cook the crabs for 14 to 18 minutes. (Cook crabs that weigh around 2 pounds each, as most do, for about 14 minutes. Increase the cooking time by a few minutes if your crabs are larger.) While they cook, grate the cheddar and set aside. Using a pair of sturdy tongs, pull the crabs out of the cooking water and chill them in the ice water. Strain the crab cooking water through a colander, return it to the pot, and return to a boil.

In a large saucepan 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 low. Keep cooking and stirring the roux until it starts to smell nutty, about 5 minutes. Gradually add the milk while continuing to stir. Increase the heat to medium high and add the bay leaves, paprika, saffron, tomato paste, cayenne, and mustard. Simmer gently until the sauce is slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Add the reserved cheese and cook until it has melted into the sauce. Taste for seasoning, then cover and set aside while you clean and crack the crabs (see Notes).

Cook the pasta in the strained crab cooking water until it is al dente, drain, and transfer to a bowl. Stir the pasta and crabmeat into the sauce. Put this heart-stoppingly delicious concoction into the baking dish.

In a medium bowl, mix the panko with the lemon zest, parsley, and melted butter. Top the pasta with the panko mixture and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the mac-and-cheese is bubbly and browned on the top.

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