Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Crab Rangoon Mac-n-Cheese

One of my favorite Mac-n-cheese recipes that we still serve often at my house, even after leaving the Bistro has been this Crab Rangoon version.  I use the cream cheese crab filling that I use for a delicious crab Rangoon appetizers to complement the salty-nutty semi-spicy macaroni.  I haven't really shared the variations "twists" or the exact recipe that was the base for what we used in the Bistro, but they are not using my recipes anymore for the twisted pasta so I'm not breaking any rules by sharing this twist here on the blog. Even then, it still isn't the exact recipe I used at the restaurant, but it is darn close. 
 I shared Twisted Mac and Cheese of the Day Base Recipe earlier.  If you are looking for a perfect macaroni casserole style recipe, here's my family favorite. It freezes beautifully. It works perfectly. Every. Single. Time. Just remember the secrets for success. 

My Tips for success:

  •  Slightly undercook the pasta.  I generally only cook it about 7 minutes. It will be a little crunchy, but the sauce is a little loose and the noodles will absorb the extra as they bake. This ensures you have a great texture on the pasta, even though it is baked later. 
  • Use subtle spices in the sauce to add depth.  My secret is the mustard, cayanne and a hint of nutmeg. Don't use too much nutmeg or it will taste like pudding. You want it to be subtle, yet enough of a nuance that people beg you for your secret ingredient. I use fresh grated, about 1/16 of a tsp. Just a hint. 
  • Watch the heat when you add the cheese to your sauce. I take my white sauce off the stove, let it cool about 5 minutes, and then add the real cheese. Real cheese in creamy sauces will tend to get a "grainy" texture if it is heated too high, so this step keeps it creamy-luscious.

Chef Tess Make-Ahead Mac-n-cheese
yield: 8 1 cup servings

1 lb elbow macaroni, cooked about 7 minutes (slightly undercooked)
1/2 cup butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup all purpose flour
8 cups milk
1T dry mustard
1/4 tsp cayanne pepper
pinch of nutmeg
1 lb sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 lb Monterrey jack cheese, shredded


  • In a gallon sized saucepan, melt the butter over medium high heat. Add the minced garlic and saute about 3 minutes until tender, but not burned. Add the flour and stir well with a whisk, about 4 minutes.  Add the milk and remaining ingredients gradually, while whisking and bring to a boil over medium heat, then simmer about 10 minutes.  Be sure to stir every 2-3 minutes so the milk doesn't burn on the bottom of the pan.  
  • Remove the pan from the heat. Allow it to cool about 5 minutes then stir in the shredded cheese.Smooth perfect cheese sauce can't be done if you cook the cheese on the stove, it will get a grainy texture if the cheese gets too hot...and you want it to be creamy smooth right?
  • In a large 9inch by 13 inch deep casserole pan, lightly grease the pan. Pour the cooked, drained pasta into the pan and season well with salt and pepper.  Pour the cheese sauce over the noodles and stir to combine.  
  • Top with breadcrumbs or twisted variation of your choice (see twisted ideas above). Usually just a drizzle of savory sauce and a different crumble of bacon or cheese on top will kick it to the next level of awesome!  I have so many more flavor variations to make it is sometimes scary how my brain works!

To Bake Immediately:
Bake the casserole at 400 degrees until sauce is bubbling and the topping of choice is crisp, about 20-25 minutes. 

To save for later: Cover casserole with foil and place in the fridge. May be kept up to 5 days. Ready to heat and eat. Bake, covered with foil, 400 degrees 25-30 minutes. Remove foil and allow to bake 10 minutes more, until topping is crisp. 

To make into a freezer meal:  Cover with foil, label and date and transfer to the freezer. 
To prepare: Thaw the casserole in the fridge for 24 hours and follow the directions for the refrigerator version. OR bake from frozen, covered with foil 1 hour 20 minutes. I recommend thawing first. It just gives your sauce a really great texture.  

 Crab Rangoon Version

8 oz chopped crab (fresh or a combination of imitation and real)
8 oz softened cream cheese
1/2 cup minced green onion
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp minced garlic
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Fold the rangoon mixture into the macaroni casserole before baking.

At service, top with fried wonton wrappers or  fried won-ton salad strips.

There you go! Make some twisted mac-n-cheese tonight.  There will definitely be more versions to follow on the blog soon!

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

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