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My Yanked mac and cheese

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I think one of the top five comfort food to us Yankees is macaroni and cheese. Nothing like that creamy cheese sauce working its magic around fully-cooked (not al dente) pasta which beckons us to grab a second plate. Be it baked or not, that crispy top crust reminds me of those days when my father put a smile on our faces by setting that jumbo-sized casserole dish in the middle of the table at suppertime. I have taken that feel good meal and Yanked it with few flavors I think you may find quite complementary. And, as usual, let me know what you think at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Don't forget to visit my blog and website as well for many more ideas for that wintry meal that will warm you up.

Crab Yanked Mac and Cheese
1/2 lb. macaroni (or other small pasta) cooked and drained
1/4 c. butter or margarine
3 T. flour
3 c. half-and-half
14 oz. grated Cheddar cheese
5 c. finely cubed bread
2 t. Old Bay seasoning
1/4 c. minced onion
2/3 c. buttermilk ranch dressing
14 oz. Crab meat, drained
2 T. butter or margarine, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter either 10 ramekins or a large casserole dish. Melt butter over medium heat in a large saucepan and add flour, stirring until well blended and lump free. Whisk in the half-and-half and continue cooking until thickened, whisking constantly. Add cheese, cook and stir until melted. Season to taste with salt and pepper. In a large bowl, stir together the macaroni and cheese sauce until well blended. In a separate bowl, mix together 3 c. of the bread cubes, Old Bay, onions and ranch dressing; toss well. Stir into the macaroni along with the crab. Divide between ramekins or into casserole dish. In another bowl, combine the remaining 2 c. bread cubes with melted butter and top macaroni and cheese. Bake about 20 minutes or until bubbly.

For a Mexican variation, simply omit the crab, Old Bay and ranch dressing and add 1 c. chopped red or green bell peppers that have been slightly sauted till crisp tender, 1/4 c. minced fresh coriander and a teaspoon or cumin.

For a Greek style mac and cheese, add cooked baby spinach and some halved cherry tomatoes. Replace half the Cheddar with feta while omitting the crab, Old Bay and ranch dressing.

For Indian style mac and cheese, while melting butter to add the flour to at the beginning, place 1/2 t. ginger with 1/2 t. garlic powder with the butter before whisking in flour. Ideally you should puree a clove of fresh garlic with a slice of fresh ginger to add to the butter but very few of you will have fresh ginger handy. Omit the crab, Old Bay and ranch and add 1/2 t. each of turmeric and cayenne.

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