If there was one dish I craved constantly throughout my childhood, it was macaroni and cheese. Ever since I tried it (or since I can remember), I would pester my mom to recreate the cheesy pasta; she only did once or twice though. My mom—a nutrition nut—seldom agreed that boxed mac ’n cheese was a proper meal. So whenever I asked for it, she would try to make a healthy homemade version. She failed mostly. I can remember one great homemade macaroni and cheese—a creamy four-cheese sauce tossed with penne and baked until bubbly—but that is it. Every other time, my mom’s macaroni and cheese was watery, dry or not cheesy enough.
So I decided to embark on an adventure: the quest to find the most delicious macaroni and cheese recipe. Over the course of the next few weeks I will eat more macaroni and cheese than I did during my whole childhood (well maybe). I am hoping that after this I will have the macaroni and cheese recipe to take to my mother (and make for my friends).
The first recipe I tried involves an ingredient that is unknown to many people—but a favorite of mine nonetheless—imitation crab-meat. The original recipe calls for lobster, but let’s face it, do I really want to spend my weekly allowance on lobster meat for one night’s dinner? The answer is no, so surimi (imitation crab-meat) is a great alternative.
Crab Mac ‘N Cheese (adapted from Healthy Food For Living)
Makes about 6 servings.
Active time: 25 minutes. Total time: 1 hour.
- 1 teaspoon Canola oil
- ½ lb. elbow pasta
- 2 cups low-fat milk
- 4 tablespoons salted butter, divided
- ¼ cup flour
- 6 oz, about 2 cups, grated gruyere cheese
- 4 oz, about 1 ¼ cups, grated 50%-reduced fat cheddar cheese
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ lb. pre-cooked imitation crab-meat (ask for it in the seafood section)
- 1/3 cup breadcrumbs
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Coat an 8×8-inch baking pan with canola oil, spreading it evenly with a paper towel.
- Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil; add pasta and cook until al dente, about 1-2 minutes less than the amount recommended in the box). Drain and set aside.
- In a separate pot, heat milk over medium-low heat until hot but not boiling. Turn off heat and set aside.
- In a large saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons butter over low heat. Whisk in flour for about 1 minute. While continuing to whisk, pour in hot milk and stir until smooth and thick, about 1 more minute. Remove saucepan from heat and stir in grated cheese. Add a teaspoon of salt and pepper to taste. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish.
- Melt remaining tablespoon butter in the microwave and stir in breadcrumbs until moistened. Evenly spread buttered breadcrumbs over pasta. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until breadcrumbs are golden and cheese is bubbling.