Baked crab & spinach macaroni ‘n’ cheese
Believe me or not, the last time I had macaroni and cheese or (UK: Macaroni cheese) that I can recall was when I was a teenager. I learn the basic macaroni and cheese during my domestic science class in secondary school. I made once at home and my mom really liked it but since this is a rather heavy dish and the way that I learnt to make the sauce did not seem that easy to make it to a smooth sauce therefore I have not made it ever again until tonight. After going through some recipes, I realized that the method of making the cheese sauce I learnt at that time was not quite accurate. I added in the milk all in one go instead of bit by bit which indeed made it easier to form lumps and took much longer to make a smooth sauce.
I did not realise that there can be so many variations of Mac n’ Cheese until I read the Macaroni ‘n’ Cheese Roundup by one of my favorite food blogs- 5 Star Foodie Culinary Adventure. And all of a sudden I was inspired to make my own one. By using crab, spinach, mushrooms and a bit of bacon, it did not feel heavy at all. I would definitely make this from time to time with the basic sauce below and to try with other types of cheese and ingredients.
Meanwhile, after reading the information from wikipedia, I still cannot tell which country is Macaroni cheese originated from, US, UK or Italy? Anyone knows? I have always thought it’s originated in the UK as my first encounter was using English cheddar cheese.
- macaroni 100g
- 100g fresh or frozen crab meat
- 50g bacon, cut into cubes
- 1 cup champignons, cut into cubes
- a big handful fresh young spinach (or choose the baby spinach)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- hot paprika powder (optional)
- hot chili powder (optional)
For the Cheese Sauce:
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp flour
- 1 1/2 cup semi-skimmed milk
- 80g English cheddar cheese, grated
- 50g Gouda cheese, grated
- 1/8 tsp white pepper
- 1 tsp salt
Step 1-6 are preparation work
- Preheat oven at 190ºC.
- Grease an ovenproofed ceramic baking tray with a little butter and dust with flour.
- Grate the cheese and set aside.
- Cut the bacon into small cubes if you cannot buy ready cubed ones, discard excess fat if necessary.
- Defrost the crab meat and squeeze to remove excess liquid
- Wash and drain the spinach, set aside.
- In a deep pan, cook the macaroni in large quantity of hot water, add a teaspoon salt in the water. Cook the macaroni to about 70 % cooked, so deduct 1-2 minutes as instructed. This is because the macaroni will continue to be cooked when baking in the oven later. When ready, drain in a colander and set aside
- In a non-stick saucepan, heat some olive oil at medium high heat, add in the bacon, stir fry for a while and then add in the mushrooms, keep stirring for a minute and then add in the crab meat and spinach. Stir to mix, then quickly transfer the ingredients to a bowl. Since the spinach cooks fast, it is important not to cook too long. You may find some liquid may have come out from the spinach & mushroom, discard the liquid if any.
- To make the roux: Wash and dry the saucepan, melt the butter in low heat, when it is melted, add in the flour and stir with a wooden spatula, you will get a big lump, gradually add in the milk bit by bit, keep stirring until you get a thick sauce without lumps. You can increase to medium heat but not too hot. When all milk is added, you can add in two-thirds of the grated cheese, stir until all the cheese in melted. The cheese sauce is now ready, turn off the heat and add in the cooked crab & spinach mixture.
- Lay half of the macaroni onto the baking tray and pour in half the sauce, then lay the rest of the macaroni and pour in the remaining sauce.
- Bake in the middle rack of the oven for 20 mins, then put a piece of aluminium foil on top of the baking tray and bake for another 15 mins, this is to avoid the macaroni from getting burnt.
- Remove the baking tray from the oven and sprinkle the remaining 1/3 of the grated cheese on top and then grill for 5 mins to get light golden crust top.
- Serve when hot, you can sprinkle some hot paprika powder and/or hot chili powder to give a kick.
Enjoy while it is piping hot!
- If you do not like the cheese topping as you find it too cheesy, you can use Panko breadcrumbs instead.