Dungeness Crab Macaroni + Gruyère Cheese with Parmesan-Garlic Breadcrumbs
I first had this AMAZING dish during a meal with girlfriends at the fantastic Seattle eatery BluWater Bistro in 2006. Although the Lake Union restaurant where we originally had this dinner is no more, BluWater Bistro still has this dish on the menu at their Greenlake and Leschi locations. This is the closest I can get to their original recipe, and it is hands down one of the best pasta dishes I’ve ever had.
One look at the list of ingredients below may send you running in the other direction – the expense of this dish no doubt makes it one for special occasions only. I encourage you not to substitute the rather pricey Gruyère cheese with another type, however, as it’s unique flavor is a crucial component of the overall dish.
The Dungeness crab is native to the Pacific Northwest, and can be harvested in the wild from the Aleutian Islands of Alaska to southern California. Crabs off the coast of Washington State may reach up to nearly 10 inches in carapace width (the width of the hard dorsal shell, not including the claws), although most are approximately 8 inches in width. One-quarter of the crab’s weight is a slightly sweet meat, valued as a delicacy in local cuisine.
Prices for whole Dungeness crabs vary considerably dependent on size and freshness. Extracted meat may be purchased to save time (and in some cases, money), but there is something quite fun about removing the meat from a whole crab with crab crackers and a mallet!
DUNGENESS CRAB MACARONI + GRUYÈRE CHEESE WITH PARMESAN-GARLIC BREADCRUMBS
12 ounces dry elbow macaroni
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup chèvre cheese
1 cup cream cheese
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
3/4 cup shredded Gruyère cheese
3/4 cup shredded aged white cheddar
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 pounds fresh Dungeness crab, flaked
1/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1 tsp granulated garlic
Fresh Italian parsley, to serve
1. Bring 8 cups water to a boil in a 5- to 6-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add macaroni and cook according to package directions. Drain in colander and set aside.
2. Heat heavy cream in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add chèvre cheese, cream cheese, salt and pepper. Heat until melted, stirring constantly, about 5 minutes.
3. Return drained pasta to the large 5- to 6-quart saucepan. Add hot cream-chèvre mixture and place over medium heat until hot, stirring constantly. Add Gruyère, cheddar and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheeses and stir until melted.
4. Gently fold crab into macaroni. Pour into a shallow casserole dish and spread evenly.
5. In a small bowl, combine bread crumbs, granulated garlic and remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle mixture over macaroni and place under a hot broiler for 1 to 2 minutes, or until breadcrumbs are golden.
6. Remove from oven, sprinkle with Italian parsley, and serve immediately.