This time was a little different in two ways, #1 I remembered to take a picture (Yay me!), #2 I kinda tweaked the recipe a bit to what I thought would taste even better. Not that I am bashing Rachael's recipe, I of all people would never do that. However, Rachael herself says take a recipe and make it your own, so I did.
Below is the original recipe as Rachael wrote it, and as I said everyone that tried it loved it. My version of this recipe will be posted at Bobbi's Kozy Kitchen. If you are feeling adventurous try both and let me know your opinion!
Crab Cake Mac N Cheese
1 pound cavatappi or elbow pasta with lines or conchiglie (small fat tubes/shell shaped pasta with lines)2 tablespoons EVOO
2 tablespoons butter
3 ribs celery with leafy tops, finely copped
1/2 small red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
3 to 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
About 2 tablespoons freshly chopped thyme leaves, several sprigs
About 1 tablespoons grated lemon zest
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound fresh lump crab meat, picked for shells and flaked
1 tablespoon seafood seasoning (recommended: Old Bay)
3 tablespoons all-purpous flour
2 1/2 cups milk
Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/3 pound, about 1 rounded cup grated sharp white Cheddar
1/3 pound, about 1 rounded cup shredded Gruyere or Swiss cheese
3 tablespoons hot sauce (recommended: Frank's Red Hot)
1 cup panko bread crumbs
A gernerous handful flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, a couple of handfuls
Bring a large pot of water to boil over medium heat, then salt the water. Add the pasta and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, (it will be undercooked). Cool, drain well and add to a large bowl.
Meanwhile, in a medium sauce pan, heat 2 tablespoons of EVOO, 2 turns of the pan, and 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium-high heat. Add the celery, onion, red pepper, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, lemon zest, salt and pepper to taste. Cook to tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the crab meat to the vegetables and season liberally with seafood seasoning. Stir to combine, then remove from heat.
IN a medium sauce pot, over low heat, melt 3 tablespoons butter and whisk in the flour. Cook for 1 minute, then whisk in the milk and bring to a bubble. Season the sauce with salt, pepper, and nutmeg, to taste, and cook for a few minutes, until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Add the mustard and the cheese and stir in a figure 8 motion. Add the vegetables and crab, sauce to the bowl with the pasta and transfer the mixture to individual baking crocks or a large casserole dish. This can be made ahead to this point and refrigerated.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
To complete the dish, melt a couple of tablespoons butter in a small skillet over low heat and add 3 tablespoons hot sauce. Warm through, then add the panko crumbs and toss evenly to coat the crumbs in the sauce mixture. Cool the crumbs, then toss in the parsley and 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Top the mac n cheese with the spicy crumb mixture. Arrange individual crocks on a baking sheet or put the casserole on a baking sheet to catch any drips. Back until brown and heated through, about 10 minutes. If cooking from cold, the mac n cheese will take 40 to 45 minutes, but add the crumbs the last 10 minutes of baking.