crimpin’ on Oscar night

I’m not going to give you any of my boring Oscars commentary, because frankly who cares? Except I will say that Frathaway didn’t bother me since I just gazed lustfully at James the whole time (when he wasn’t backstage hitting the bong). Could be worse ways to spend a Sunday night. Anyone else think James Franco and Joseph Gordon-Levitt could play brothers?

Yes? No?

Anyway, here is what I did think was truly smashing about the evening: dinner. We whipped up this little gem because it could go in the oven and therefore we wouldn’t spend the red carpet slaving over the stove.

Crimpin’ Mac-n-Cheese

The crab and shrimp in this recipe adds a certain je ne sais quoi. The flavouring isn’t strong enough to be overpowering but it lightens up the dish — it’s a little more delicate and a little less BAM-THIS-IS-JUST-CHEESE-AND-CARBS. (Although there is a time and place for everything.)

Preheat your oven to 375 and grease a casserole dish (13 x 9 pan works fine, or anything that holds about 2.5 L). Get your sea-meaties ready for easy addition at the end. Prepare and set aside:

  • one 4 or 6 oz can of salad crab meat (or more expensive crab if you swing that way), drained
  • about 14 medium-sized raw shrimpies (you can use previously frozen, no one’s judging), tails removed, deveined if necessary, and chopped up

Now grate your cheese, so you have something to snack on while you prep the rest. Grate (no pre-grated please, that’s just lazy and not-very-good-tasting) and set aside:

  • 2 c cheddar
  • 1 c mild emmenthal
  • plus however much extra you plan on eating over the next 10 minutes while you chop and stir

Ok, let’s make your topping. I am going to put this topping for every pasta casserole I ever make for the rest of my god-given days. Combine and set aside:

  • about 1 c panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp minced parsley (dry or fresh, whatever you’ve got)
  • 1 tbsp grated parmesan (that powdery stuff works)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt, more if you like this saltaaaay (I put almost a whole tsp)

Boil, until cooked on the outside but undercooked in the middle:

  • about 1/2 to 3/4 pound pasta (rotini, macaroni, conchiglie, rigatoni… whatever kicks your tires)

Drain your pasta and set it aside too. Now, in a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt:

  • 3 tbsp butter

Whisk in, until smooth:

  • 1/4 c flour

Then, whisk in:

  • 1 and 3/4 c milk
  • 1 c light cream

Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring, until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. What up, bechamel sauce! Way to go, you fancy cook. Now remove it from the heat and stir in:

  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp ground mustard
  • 1/2 tsp Old Bay, if you have it. I didn’t so I just added pinches of all-spice, ginger, paprika, celery seed, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Now plop in your cheese and stir until melted. Oh goodness. Combine your pasta, sauce and sea meat in a big bowl and stir it all up, then taste it for saltiness — add more if necessary, undersalted mac-and-cheese is never pretty. Now, this is the important part: try not to sit down on the floor and eat the entire bowl with your hands. Instead, pour it all into your pan and then sprinkle your topping mixture evenly over the surface. Bake 20-30 min until golden on top, then let rest 5 min before serving. Let the angels sing.

I don’t have a picture because we ate it embarrassingly quickly.

For dessert we had crème brûlée. And then heart attacks.