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it’s okay to be crabby

Recipe: crab mac and cheese

Are you feeling crabby this Valentine’s Day? If so, I’ve got just the dish for you. But I ask you to be patient because I have a winner to announce for the Kyocera ceramic knife drawing (and some other musings)! People like to use the site for their random drawings, but I have something beyond random – we call it mindless and ridiculous.

ready to do her job, naked

In consultation with my resident astrophysicist, someone well-versed in statistics, we agreed to place a treat inside Kaweah’s Kong toy and hide it in the yard. Jeremy would time how long it took for Kaweah to find the Kong in 100ths of a second.

she canvased the yard in no time

and found her kong

in 51.19 seconds

We then took the mod of 5119 by the number of entries (multiple comments were deleted except for the first instance). We had 412 legitimate entries and the mod was 175. Our 175th commenter is Adrienne who wrote:

Anything new that is not sad or unfortunate tends to make me happy, be it meeting new people, exploring new environments, investigating new creatures, cooking new things, surprises, unexpected. I’m a novelty junkie.

Congratulations, you’ve won the Kyocera ceramic 5.5″ knife! I will contact you via email to get your mailing address. I really appreciate so many of you sharing your “happy” with me. There were a lot of genuinely beautiful sentiments and I know I am not the only one who came away feeling the warm fuzzies after reading them. So thank you.

What makes me happy? Too many things to name, just too many. But if I had to put my finger on one thing it would have to be living. I don’t mean being medically alive, I mean really living life – for whatever time I’ve got – and appreciating that I have this opportunity. A gentleman passed me on the slopes yesterday while I was pausing to take a picture of the scenery in the distance.

whooshing past me

That’s him in the sitting position, a paraplegic – skiing. The people with him are there in case he needs help, but this guy didn’t need any help except getting on and off the lift. He was beautiful in so many ways. A reinforcement to my belief that you have to work hard to overcome obstacles and that it is worth it to do so. An inspiration because my obstacles pale in comparison to his. But there we were, skiing on a gorgeous bluebird day. I watched him glide down the mountain and I felt such a rush and love for life. Happy.

And while we’re on the topic of happy, I have to share part of this very special Valentine I received today – and it wasn’t from Jeremy! [Next set of photos and text: courtesy A. Kiely]

hooray! a package from jen!!!

we can hardly wait!


i can’t believe jen also sent us this awesome hat!!


be sure to read my blog, “use real tuna”

happy valentine’s day from people who lack your culinary expertise

Kevin, Thomas, M, A, and Leroy (their kitty cat).

Message from Thomas:
Please send us a mile of snow. Love, Thomas.

Totally unrelated, but here is Kevin’s life wish list that he dictated to me last weekend:

Kevin wishes that:
1. That when I order stuff, it would come right away.
2. That the ABC’s were in a different order, with “M” much earlier.
3. That there was no wind ever.
4. That the numbers were in a different order.
5. That paper money was camouflaged, so no bad guys would see my money.

This was far and away the best Valentine I have ever received. EVAR. My friends are the most amazing parents on the planet. We have pictures of Kevin and Thomas all over my house. I love those boys (Thomas is the cutest little troublemaker). I knew Kevin before his autism diagnosis and I watched how he and his parents worked tirelessly to help him adjust to life as we know it. Kevin is a sweet boy in this crazy world that he doesn’t always understand. One May evening, not long before we moved to Colorado, we were saying good-night to our friends in their front yard. Kevin was gently twirling in circles next to me on the lawn when he muttered something. I leaned close and asked what he had said. He repeated, “I sure do love you.” And with that, he locked himself into my heart forever. More happy. You guys made my day, today. xxoo

As I said at the beginning, it is okay to be crabby. Grouchy? No. Crabby? Yes… especially if you put the crab in mac and cheese, which is what I did today. Just between you and me, I don’t really feel that elbow macaroni and crab make good roommates, so I searched and searched for radiatore pasta and found nada. I settled on some chiocciole.

whole wheat chiocciole, white cheddar, butter, milk, crab, garlic, egg yolks

I don’t make mac and cheese often, but I’ve made it enough times from scratch (twice) to know that I don’t care for that pasty feel of too much flour in the sauce. Instead, I reduced the amount of flour and added a couple of egg yolks to give the cheese sauce a creamy and smooth custard-like texture.

whisking flour into garlic and melted butter

A paste of garlic and salt helped to give the flavor a big boost since mac and cheese is on the bland side. The garlic doesn’t overpower the dish at all, but rather enhances the other flavors. When the flour and butter began to foam after a minute, I whisked in the milk and the egg yolks. If you’ve ever made custard, then you know you need to stir to keep the egg from cooking on the bottom and sides of the pot.

stir in the cheese

When the sauce thickened to nappe consistency (enough to coat the back of a spoon) I stirred in the shredded organic sharp white cheddar. It smelled fantastic!

folding in the crab and cooked pasta

After folding in the crab meat and pasta, I debated whether to bake it or serve it “saucy”. I think you could go either way and they would both be awesome. If you decide to serve it saucy-style, then I suggest warming everything up in the pot before serving. This time, I poured the crab mac into a baking dish and sprinkled cracked wheat bread crumbs (just pulsed the toasted slices in my food processor into coarse crumbs) over the top.

sprinkle some bread crumbs on top

I used canned crab meat because I’m trying to clear out pantry space, but I think some nice lump crab meat would work beautifully in this recipe. Still, the crab mac was much better than I expected it to be on the first try – excellent. Happy Valentine’s Day. Go get some lovin’.

a scoop of crab mac with sautéed kale and roasted parsnips

Crab Mac and Cheese
[print recipe]

8 oz. pasta, cooked (radiatore is my favorite shape for this dish, but penne is also nice)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
4 tbsps butter
1 tbsp flour
2 cups whole milk
2 egg yolks
8 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded
1 tsp black pepper, ground
12 oz. crab meat
2-3 slices of bread, toasted (I used cracked wheat sourdough)
butter (optional)

Boil the pasta to al dente. Drain and set aside. Sprinkle salt over the minced garlic and mash into a paste with the flat of a sturdy and strong knife blade. Melt the butter and garlic paste in a large saucepan over high heat. When the garlic becomes fragrant, whisk in the flour. After a minute or so, the butter mixture should foam. Whisk in the milk and 2 egg yolks until well combined. Stir constantly over medium heat until the sauce thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Add the cheese and stir until it is melted. Season with black pepper (add more salt to taste). Remove from heat and stir in the crab meat and pasta. Pour everything into a 9×13-inch baking dish and spread evenly. Toast the bread (you can butter the bread if you like, but I chose not to) and then pulse in a food processor into coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over the crab mac. Bake at 375°F for 25 minutes. Serve hot.

43 nibbles at “it’s okay to be crabby”

  1. Lisa@The Cutting Edge of Ordinary says:

    Those are two cute little boys. I have a pair myself, so I’m kinda partial to little men. Just adorable. That crabby mac & cheese looks pretty awesome too.

  2. Tartelette says:

    Oh dude, you made me completely melt and cry over these little boys…
    My bestfriend from high school is paraplegic and she is my inspiration as I watch her compete in ski competitions back home. Great capture of the slopes!

    Crabby mac&cheese will be on the menu this spring when we can catch fresh crabs at the dock…another one of your recipes for the “Delicious Folder” (as opposed to the “other” folder…hmmmm)

  3. Katie says:

    I love the egg yolks in the sauce. I made mac n cheese the other day and thought the sauce was too floury, good alternative!

  4. Margie says:

    Congratulations to Adrienne. I loved reading what it is that makes her happy. But then I loved just about all that I read. That was a beautiful post, Jenzie, but so is this one, and the one before it, and the before it……you get my drift.

    Beautiful Miss K. Doing her job and doing it well. Just so darned cute!

    Thanks for sharing your photo shoot on the slopes. I am really beyond words to truly express my sentiments. I can only imagine the burst of sunshine at such a sight. Hope, hope and more hope. A blessed moment etched into my heart. A valentine I had no idea you had sent, but one that I have received.

    You are such a special joy. Thanks for all your goodness. Happy Valentine’s Day to you and yours!

  5. Collette says:

    Oh, sweet, sweet photos of the boys. Those eyes! And I love the story about Kevin. Made me a little weepy. You know, in a good way. ;-)

  6. Kitt says:

    What a happy Valentine’s Day for Adrienne! And for you. Such a cute valentine for and from your buddies. Here’s to lovin’ life.

  7. Irene says:

    What a beautiful Valentine! I did get the warm fuzzies. :)

  8. Dany says:

    What a gorgeous Valentine!
    I always put a spoonful of whole grain mustard in my macaroni cheese sauce, it really boosts the flavour :o)

  9. Rosa says:

    A great Valentine’s Day! Congrats to Adrienne!

    Your recipe is realy soul-upliftingly scrumptious! The kind of delicious food which makes you feel better…



  10. Chiot's Run says:

    MMM, crab mac n cheese. I wonder if I could get Mr Chiots to eat this?

  11. Jamie says:

    What a beautiful post and a lovely thought about being inspired by the gentleman on the slopes. I know from personal experience how incredible people like that are and deserve such respect for living their life to the fullest without much complaint.

    This Crabby Mac and Cheese looks fantastic. This could easily become a decadent favorite!

  12. Maya says:

    Reading about that gentleman really puts my life into perspective. Crab+mac+cheese = OMG!

  13. Bridget says:

    Yikes, crab and mac and chz – you’ve combined two very awesome foods. I’ll have to look for a good opportunity to try this.

    Another idea to make mac and chz a little less bland is a pinch of cayenne. Not enough to make it spicy, just to give it some oomph.

  14. Kathy says:

    Beautiful little boys like your friends are the essence of life.

  15. Karyn says:

    I agree with you – living is something that makes me happy too. Having just experienced a tragic, too-young, death in my family, I’m really thinking about that a lot lately – what can I take away from this so it’s not a complete waste.

    And mmmmm – that mac and cheese looks amazing. I know what we’re having for dinner tonight! Yum – thanks!

  16. Melissa says:

    Congratulations to the lucky winner. I’m sorry I never got to contribute to that post. What makes me happy? Me. Just being me. And remembering my dreams.

    You and Jeremy, the way you determined the winner? Love it. You guys are such nerds and I mean that with utmost fondness.

    “Use Real Tuna.” Hahahaha.

  17. barbara says:

    What gorgeous boys. I can understand why you love them.

    Never crossed my mind to add egg yolks to mac and cheese. I must try it.

  18. peabody says:

    I find your way of figuring out the winner to be the best method. :) Even though it is fixed. :P
    That skiier is so inspiring. I love seeing things like that. Makes me remember I don’t have it all that bad.
    Those are some happy boys there…I would have been happy too.
    Crab Mac and Cheese is a super food.

  19. Mrs Ergül says:

    What a fun way to determine the winner!

    That’s a few very special boys you showed us there. Happy in their own world and they inspire us. They really do… :)

    crab mac & cheese?! I have never made any mac & cheese but i’ve seen it around. Yours look like the classy version of comfort food hehe

  20. Lori says:

    You make crabby beautiful. A distinct gift. You always make things beautiful. People, places, ideas, and of course food.

  21. Mollie says:

    That post made me very very happy on many levels. :) I’ve very glad Miss K got to take part in the selection process – a fine job as usual! Love the picture of your fellow skier – that stuff really puts it into perspective. Life – LIFE – is what you make of it, truly. Awesome.

    I heart your valentine. That is so cool….

    And, typically, you’ve solved a problem for me… my mac & cheese tastes too pasty too, so of course now we know the custard secret to fix that lil’ problem… and I have some canned crab in the freezer too…. hmmmmm :) love ya.

  22. Patricia Scarpin says:

    I have never had mac and cheese, let alone with crab… Yum!

    I love how kids can lighten up our day with a simple smile. They are honest and that is what I admire the most – if they like you or not, be sure you will know!

    My little sis (who is now 15, I cannot believe it) spent the night at my house last Friday, we had so much fun together… And even though she’s taller than me now, I don’t mind – I hugged and kissed her so much I believe she was even kind of tired… :D

    Those boys are so adorable I know I would be hugging them a lot, too!

  23. Steph says:

    mm, crab mac and cheese. How luxurious and lovely :)
    Your posts are pretty inspiring and motivating to live one’s life, just like the skiing man.

  24. jenyu says:

    Lisa – yeah, these two boys have a very special place in my heart :) I think little kids can be so great.

    Tartelette – I really really miss catching crabs off the docs :( You’ll have to catch some extra for me!

    Katie – I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks mac and cheese is too floury.

    Margie – K-dawg is *crazy* Hope you had a special V-day too.

    Collette – the boys are really sweet and Kevin is a very special guy in my life.

    Kitt – xxoo

    Irene – hee hee!

    Dany – mmm, sounds good!

    Rosa – better and perhaps fatter :) I have to be careful not to eat too much of it!

    Chiot’s Run – I wonder?!? :)

    Jamie – I’m still tweaking it. Next time I think I want to try the creamy version (i.e. not baked).

    Maya – :)

    Bridget – any opportunity is a good one, no? I was thinking something spicy like Tobasco too! :)

    Kathy – they definitely make you feel alive when you’re with them. They have infinite energy.

    Karyn – I’m very sorry about your loss. I know how awful that can be. What you take away is that you made the most of your time together when they were alive and that you will always make the most of your time together with everyone you love. xxoo

    Melissa – I like that a lot. I think too many people aren’t happy with who they are and well… if you can’t like yourself, who the hell is gonna like you?! :) nerds rule!!

    Barbara – if you knew how amazing their parents are, you’d know why I love them even more :)

    Peabody – fixed! ha ha ha :) I’m not the one with a dog in ninja training ;)

    Mrs. E – I think Kaweah had the most fun. Thanks, hon.

    Lori – you’re very sweet to say, dear.

    Mollie – Yes, give the yolks a try. I like it much better that way because the floury pasty feel of the sauce is just gross. So I’m glad you like that post so much since, well… since I’m blogging FOR YOU :) xxoo

    Patricia – That’s so sweet about your sister. I’m glad you get to spend time with her. What a fun big sister you must be – one who bakes so many goodies too!

    Steph – awww, thanks. We all have it in us. xxoo

  25. Mollie says:

    um… I’m just caching up and a) ha! I’m so glad the world is in its rights and we all know you’re blogging for me and b) I realized I wrote I have canned crab in the freezer. My brain hasn’t completely gone out of my head… not yet anyway… my canned crab is actually NOT in my freezer but in a CAN in my cupboard… geesh… I need to stop working so much…

  26. Anna says:

    I made this with my boyfriend and it turned out DELICIOUS. We used real crab meat and spent over 30 minutes pulling out every tiny bit of crab meat so that we smelled like crab for hours afterward. It was worth it! Thanks for the recipe! Your valentines day card from your friend was TOO CUTE!

  27. jenyu says:

    Mollie – ha! you need to get K-dawg out for more walkies and clear your head :)

    Anna – that sounds soooo good. I love fresh crab meat. I love crab! Really glad you liked it and thanks for commenting!

  28. Steph says:

    I just made this today for lunch. It was absolutely delicious, thank you for posting it. :)

  29. jenyu says:

    Steph – terrific! I’m happy you liked the recipe. Mmmmm :)

  30. Kevin says:

    Crab mac and cheese sounds so good!

  31. jenyu says:

    Kevin – thanks, bud!

  32. wei yann says:

    Woooo I just made this for dinner and it is SO GOOD!! Thanks for sharing the recipe Jen, now I must gobble this up! :)

  33. jenyu says:

    Wei – :) awesome!

  34. Elizabeth says:

    I LOVE mac and cheese! Never really been a fan of crab though, do you think it would work with other types of seafood? salmon, cod etc?

    the photos are gorgeous! :) x

  35. jenyu says:

    Elizabeth – You could probably sub in shrimp or salmon, easily. Thanks!

  36. Rachael says:

    Awesome dish. I used 8 oz of crab and it was plenty crabby for me and my family. Over all it was a great success!

  37. Shire Cooking » Blog Archive » Crabby Mac and Cheese says:

    […] this recipe at Use Real Butter while stumbling the internet yesterday. and just in time too. I will probably use this recipe when […]

  38. Heaven-Sent Macaroni and Cheese | Heaven-Sent Macaroni and Cheese healty| Heaven-Sent Macaroni and Cheese > | healty foods | healty diet | healthy food says:

    […] might also enjoy these macaroni and cheese recipes: Crab Mac n’ Cheese recipe from Use Real Butter Mushroom-Herb Macaroni and Cheese recipe from Brown Eyed Baker Chef […]

  39. Not happy says:

    Okay wtf!!! I did the recipe exactly the way it says and my sauce turned out looking like scrambed eggs.. is this the way its suppose to look??

  40. jenyu says:

    NH – sounds like your eggs curdled (cooked) rather than became a custardy sauce. This usually happens if you add the eggs to something really hot without incorporating it in right away or don’t stir constantly as it cooks. One thing you can try is to temper the eggs: add the milk to the garlic/butter and let it become hot. Spoon a little of the hot milk into the egg yolks until fully combined. Add a little more hot milk and continue incorporating until the egg-milk mixture has the same liquid volume as what is in the saucepan. Then pour the egg-milk mixture back into the sauce pan (scrape it all in) and put the heat on medium and stir constantly until the sauce is thickened.

  41. Brittany says:

    I was just wondering how many this serves? I wanted to make it for two (as a side dish, kinda of) and I have a small baker that is 9×6. Any advice/ideas as to how to scale this?

  42. jenyu says:

    Brittany – I think if you halve the recipe it should work in your 9×6 pan. That would probably serve 4 people as a side dish if they have good appetites :)

  43. Brittany says:

    Great – thanks for the quick reply!

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