The Dungeness Crab season is in full swing here in the Bay Area and while my appreciation for Dungeness Crab is limited by my upbringing on the Eastern Shore of MD (Chesapeake country, blue crabs), I can’t resist this pale imitation once a year, so when I saw the price had dropped to $5.99/lb at Mollie Stone’s, I jumped. I paid $9.50 for a single crab which yielded about 1 cup of crabmeat.
Last year, I made a crab-picking video which has been playing continuously ever since on my livestream channel. You can check it out here: Livestream.com/StreamingGourmet It’s embarrassing for me to watch and I can’t stand the sound of my own voice, so although I host StreamingGourmet (the blog and video site) I don’t make very many videos. I felt compelled to demonstrate how easy it can be to yank big chunks of crab meat out of the back fin of a crab, though, since it can be a little intimidating. I like to confess that I picked dungeness crab on my very first date with my (now) husband, so if he can fall in love with me with crab juice dripping down my chin and crab meat wedged in my fingernails, then we’ll probably be fine when we’re 65.
Dungeness Crab Mac-n-Cheese
1/2 lb penne
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded Gruyére cheese
1 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper
freshly grated nutmeg
1 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 large clove of garlic, minced
1 cup crab meat
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
a few dabs of butter
1. Prepare penne according to al dente package directions. When drained, toss with a bit of olive oil to keep it from sticking together while you prepare the other elements of the dish. Set aside.
2. Preheat oven to 350˚F.
It’s best if you work on steps 3 and 4 simultaneously. Read them through to see what I mean.
3. In a medium saucepan, slowly bring the cream to a boil. Allow it to thicken and reduce by half, watching carefully not to scald the cream or let it boil over. Turn off the heat and let it cool for about a minute. Then add the cheddar and Gruyére cheeses in small batches, incorporating each batch before adding the next. Try not to over stir the mixture as this could make it stringy. Halfway through adding the cheese, you can pop the heat back on low, but be careful to keep the heat as low as possible while still promoting the melting process. Heat that is too high will cause the cheese fats to separate from the proteins. If that happens, there’s no going back. After the last batch of shredded cheese is incorporated, add salt, pepper and nutmeg to the sauce. Turn off heat and let sit, stirring occasionally.
4. While the milk is simmering and reducing, (before you are melting the cheese into it) prepare the other part of the sauce: In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and sautée until onions are softened, but not browned, about 4 minutes. Add wine and simmer to reduce wine by half, about 15 minutes. Add crab meat and continue to simmer until wine has reduced by half again. Remove from heat.
5. Stir the wine & crab meat mixture into the cheese sauce until fully combined. Spray a casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray. (You could also prepare this dish in individual serving-sized gratin dishes). Add pasta to the casserole dish and then pour the wine/cheese sauce over the pasta and toss to combine. Top with bread crumbs. Dab with butter and sprinkle Parmesan cheese across the top.
6. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until bubbly. If the top is not browned by the end of the baking process, stick it under the broiler for a few minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes and then enjoy immediately.