What’s Your Favorite Comfort Food?

Kace Ugles

When feeling stressed, as a lot of us are these days, many turn to favorite comfort foods, like grilled cheese and tomato soup, mashed potatoes and gravy, fried chicken. Mine is macaroni and cheese, and since it is crabbing season, I love putting two of my favorite ingredients, crab and cheese, together in these two recipes.

When I was growing up, my neighbor Kevin was an avid fisherman. Unfortunately for him, his family didn’t like seafood. His bad luck was our good luck as he would often knock on our door with 10 or more crabs and we would use crab in everything until it was gone and he knocked on our door with more.

My grandma’s macaroni and cheese is so simple; put together like traditional scalloped potatoes, it is easy to modify. My mom and sister love putting homegrown tomatoes in theirs. Are you a bacon lover? Or are you all about the veggie life? You can plug in your favorite item — the possibilities are limited only by your imagination. Take this recipe and run with it. I know that would be what my grandma Mary would have wanted.

Grandma Mary’s Mac & Cheese with crab 

Ingredients: 4 cups uncooked elbow macaroni (cook and drain), about 2 cups whole milk, 2 packages Kraft Deli Deluxe American cheese slices (do not substitute for other cheese slices), about ½ cup flour, 1 yellow onion, diced small and divided, 1 stick butter divided into 8 tablespoons, salt and pepper to taste and 2 cups lump crab meat. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray lasagna pan and foil to cover.

To assemble: Spread a layer of cooked noodles to cover the bottom of the pan. Next, sprinkle onion, saving enough for two more layers. Do the same thing with the flour and then salt and pepper. Next, break up two tablespoons of the butter into smaller sizes and spread evenly. Repeat for the next two levels. Finally, cover with ½ pieces of cheese slices. As a kid I loved making the ½ cheese slice triangles fit across the layer like the game Tetras. Add a few more pieces to cover any gaps. 

Repeat the next two layers with a little less pasta and add 1 cup of crab or other add-in after the butter layer. The last layer is only pasta and cheese. Lift a piece of cheese from the top and pour milk halfway up pan so you can just barely see it through the noodles. Cover with foil and put a cookie sheet below for spillage. Bake for 40 minutes and remove foil. Bake another 10 minutes until golden brown and bubbling at the edges.

Mom’s Crab Soufflé

Ingredients: ¼ cup butter, 3 tablespoons flour, 1 cup whole milk, bay leaf, celery salt, kosher salt, white pepper, cayenne, fresh nutmeg, 4 eggs, divided, 1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, grated, cream of tartar, 1 cup lump crab meat, soufflé or spring form pan and foil and tape.

In a saucepan make a roux with butter and flour over medium heat. Separately, heat 1 cup whole milk seasoned with a bay leaf and pinches of celery salt, kosher salt, white pepper and cayenne. Mix seasoned milk with roux and continue cooking for 5 more minutes, creating a béchamel sauce. Let cool.

In the meantime, spray soufflé pan or spring form pan and foil collar. Make collar by folding a piece of foil that is the circumference of your pan with a few more inches to overlap. Secure collar by folding tape in a circle or use double-sided tape and put between overlapping foil section. If still not secure, tape from outside and put pan in a bigger pan for water bath.

Making sure béchamel sauce is not too hot, add 4 egg yolks one at a time and heat almost to a boil. Add 1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese and stir until thick and creamy. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Fold in crab, trying not to break up lumps.

Beat egg whites with ⅛ teaspoon cream of tartar until stiff and fold into soufflé mixture, being careful not to over mix.

Put soufflé into larger pan and place in preheated oven on middle shelf and add water to larger pan to go halfway up soufflé pan. Bake 325 degrees for 45 minutes. Serve at once with a side of seasoned greens.