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This dinner needs no explanation -- other than the fact that Tuesdays, more often than not, are usually accompanied with a need for creamy, cheesy pasta. Maybe it's to celebrate having made it through the beginning of the week, or perhaps it's because Friday would just seem a little bit closer if mac n' cheese stood between now and then. Whatever the reason, Crab Mac, if you haven't had it, is a Tuesday kind of dish: rich, comforting, and laced with salty bits of crab and prosciutto. It pairs surprisingly well with a radicchio salad, which provides just enough sharpness to offset the creamy pasta.
2 to 3 heads radicchio (4 quarts, once chopped)
1 red onion, chopped
1 1/2 cup manchego, finely grated and divided
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 cup half and half (or milk)
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup fontina cheese, cubed
1 pound crabmeat, preferably Maryland backfin
1 pound macaroni, or pasta of choice
3 slices prosciutto
We're assuming you have olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sherry vinegar, panko, butter, honey, flour, and nutmeg. If not, be sure to add those to your shopping list, too.
1. Heat your oven to 350° F.
2. Remove the cores from the radicchio and discard. Chop into 1-inch pieces. Take 1 gallon of water in a large bowl and add enough ice to make the water icy cold. Once cold, strain out the ice and add the radicchio to the water. Let it sit for 15 minutes to remove some of its bitterness, strain, and then spin in a salad spinner until dry. Fluff the dried radicchio. (Note: If you don't strain the ice out before adding the radicchio you'll be pulling out ice pieces for half an hour so that you don't have wet radicchio.)
3. To make the béchamel: Melt 1/4 cup butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and when melted, sweat the shallots. Stir in 1/4 cup flour and gently heat, stirring continuously until the paste cooks and bubbles, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the half and half and stir for 2 to 3 more minutes. Then add the fontina cheese, 1 teaspoon nutmeg, 1 tablespoon sherry, salt, and pepper. Lastly, add the chicken stock -- the sauce should be velvety smooth.
4. Boil your pasta to al dente. Stir sauce into cooked pasta, and add crabmeat. Sprinkle with finely sliced prosciutto, top with panko bread crumbs, and heat in oven until it's bubbling and top is golden brown.
5. While the pasta bakes, make the manchego vinaigrette: add the balsamic vinegar, the 1/4 cup sherry vinegar, and chopped red onion. Break the onion up into pieces so that all of that oniony flavor gets into the vinegar. Let it sit for 1 hour and then strain out the onions.
6. Add the honey and olive oil to the strained vinegars and whisk.
7. Using your hands, toss the radicchio with the dressing until evenly coated. Add salt and 1 cup of finely grated manchego, then toss again.
8. Serve bubbling Crab Mac with salad, sprinkled with remaining manchego cheese.