The ultimate comfort food to take off the chill of an autumn evening, this dish is a “souped-up” version of a classic Maryland Crab Imperial, made all the more satisfying (read: decadent) with the addition of pasta, Fontina and prosciutto. Unlike Mac-n’-Cheese with cheddar, the base of the recipe is lighter in flavor: a Béchamel sauce -- the “mother sauce" of French cuisine. Sweat finely diced shallots in butter, add equal parts of flour to make a roux, then add warm milk (half and half) a touch of nutmeg and sherry and you’re on your way to serious yum! —Vivian Henoch
Test Kitchen Notes
This is a new fall standard for guests. I was initially skeptical, as I thought the mac and cheese would overwhelm the delicacy of the crab. However, Vivian Henoch has developed a subtle mac and cheese laced with nutmeg and sherry which complements the crab perfectly. For those of you who don’t eat red meat, good news: adding the prosciutto, while a nice finishing touch, can be totally optional. —minipanda
To make the béchamel: melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and when melted, sweat the shallots. Stir in the flour and gently heat, stirring continuously until the paste cooks and bubbles, 1-2 minutes. Add the half-and-half and stir for 2-3 more minutes.
To béchamel add fontina cheese, nutmeg, sherry, salt and pepper. Add chicken stock. Sauce should be velvety smooth.
Prepare 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 bubbling and top is golden brown.