Alicia Ross
Universal Uclick

Gourmet and artisanal macaroni and cheeses are all the rage.

I first sampled a lobster macaroni and cheese dish in a New York restaurant two years ago. As culinary trends have moved south, I started noticing more and more of my favorite restaurants adding similar dishes. One restaurant in downtown Wilmington, N.C., offers a whole slew of mac and cheese skillets from 4 in the afternoon to the wee hours of the morning. Obviously mac and cheese has curative powers for overimbibing, too.

Since macaroni and cheese has been a staple of home cooks for ages, why shouldn’t we spread our culinary wings and dress up our favorite cheesy casserole, too?

Today’s recipe for Macaroni and Cheese With Crab is based on a traditional baked mac and cheese dish like the one my Great Aunt Thelma specialized in 40-plus years ago. The base is a rich and savory cheesy egg custard, which binds all the ingredients and goes great with anything you want to add.

Crabmeat is luscious with macaroni and cheese, pure and simple.

Depending on where you live, crab can be hard to come by and fresh is always best. The next best thing to fresh crab is pasteurized. I prefer the premium select crabmeat from the U.S. The imported crab just doesn’t have the same rich flavor I am used to, but if you have had luck with it, go for it. Chicken is surprisingly tasty if you don’t want to go to the expense of purchasing crab.

Macaroni and Cheese

With Crab

8 oz. elbow macaroni

1 tsp. salt

2 tbsp., plus 1 tsp. all-purpose flour

1 tbsp. Dijon mustard

˝ tsp. ground black pepper

? cup sour cream

2 large eggs

1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk (not sweetened condensed milk)

8 oz. sliced extra-sharp New York cheddar (about 10 slices), divided

8 to 10 oz. shredded steamed crabmeat (see note), divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, cook the macaroni according to package directions. Drain well.

In large bowl, combine salt, flour, mustard, pepper, sour cream, eggs and milk. Whisk well until eggs are beaten and no lumps of flour appear. Set aside.

Spray a 9-by-13-inch casserole with nonstick cooking oil. When macaroni is cooked and drained, spread half on bottom of casserole.

Layer half the cheese on top of the macaroni. Layer half the crab over the cheese. Top with remaining macaroni and crab. Cube the remaining cheese slices and sprinkle over the top of the crab.

Whisk egg mixture again and pour evenly over the entire casserole. Bake in the center of the oven until the edges are set and center is still slightly jiggly, about 30 minutes. Top will be golden. Remove from oven and cool 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Makes six servings as a main dish; eight to 10 servings as a side dish.

Note: Fresh crab is best, but pasteurized canned crab is also a good choice. An equal amount of chicken can also be used.

Each of 10 side dish servings contains about 299 calories, 15 grams fat (8 grams saturated), 95 milligrams cholesterol, 18 grams protein, 24 grams carbohydrates, no dietary fiber, 541 milligrams sodium.

Alicia Ross is the co-author of three cookbooks. Contact her c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106, email tellus@kitchenscoop.com, or visit http://kitchenscoop.com.