Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Tillamook Crab and Macaroni Bake

I picked up this recipe last year when my friend Jake was visiting and we went out to the Tillamook Cheese Factory (the happiest place on Earth in my opinion). Why it’s taken me this long to make it is anybody’s guess, but I’m glad Aaron and I got this together finally. I modified it a bit, replacing the toasted white bread with panko, making my own seasoning mix instead of using Old Bay, using pepper jack instead of regular Monterey jack, taking out the bell pepper, and replacing the shallots (which I forgot to purchase) with extra onion and garlic. However, I think the general idea is still there and it tastes awesome. I did a half size recipe because the original serves 8-10 and that’s why too much for just two. Do what I did or make it full because it’ll rock for a potluck dinner.

Tillamook Crab and Macaroni Bake modified from the Tillamook Cheese Factory:

Serves 4-5

At least 1 c. panko
1 Tb. olive oil
At least 1 tsp. seasoning mix (celery seed, granulated garlic, oregano, thyme, marjoram)
5 oz. rotini pasta
1½ Tb. butter
1/8 c. flour
1 c. milk
¼ tsp. salt
Fresh ground pepper to taste
Granulated garlic to taste
2 oz. cream cheese
2 oz. cheddar cheese, grated (I’m a total convert to Tillamook’s white cheddar)
3 oz. pepper jack cheese, grated (also Tillamook, duh)
2 Tb. finely chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1½ Tb. chopped cilantro
4 oz. crabmeat

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Boil pasta in salted water until tender, drain and set aside. Take about half of the seasoning mix and mix it in with the panko. Set aside.

Melt butter over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add flour and whisk until smooth. Continue stirring butter and flour mixture over medium heat for 2-3 minutes until it has a slightly nutty aroma. Pour in milk while whisking and whisk until smooth. Cook while stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes until mixture thickens. Add salt, pepper, granulated garlic, and the rest of the seasoning mix. Add cream cheese and whisk until smooth. Remove from heat and add the grated cheddar and pepper jack cheese. Stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Stir in onion, garlic, and cilantro. Stir in pasta and gently fold in crab meat.

Spray a casserole dish (or bread pan, which is what I did) with nonstick spray. Pour in filling and spread out evenly. Sprinkle panko crumbs over top.
Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown and bubbling around the edge.

This dish rocks. Seriously, it was so good. I’ve made roux plenty of times now and I never thought to mix in cream cheese. It makes the sauce so silky smooth. I think pepper jack was a great substitution because it adds a hint of spice, which works well with the crab. This is great. End of story.

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