Baked Crab Mac and Cheese

This Haitian-style macaroni dish is a childhood favorite of Charly Pierre, the chef and owner of Fritai New Orleans.

Thanksgiving 2016 stands out in Charly Pierre’s mind for two reasons. It was the first time, in a long time, that he had all of his family in the same room. And it was also the year he learned how to make his mother’s baked macaroni.

“It's one of my favorite things ever,” Pierre said about the Haitian-style mac and cheese.

Earlier that year he had relocated from his hometown of Boston to New Orleans. While the Crescent City is known for music, food and culture, it was missing one thing: his mother’s cooking and all the familiar comforts that come with it. “If you go to weddings or any catered event, Haitians will always have baked macaroni.”

 

It would not be that way for long. The following year he opened Fritai, a Haitian food stall at the St. Roch’s Market in New Orleans. Prominently displayed on the menu is his mother’s baked macaroni. He adds his own twist to the traditional recipe. Bits of lump crab are baked into the dish — a sort of nod to his new home.

“What’s unique about the recipe is that it’s full flavored,” Mr. Pierre said of the traditional dish, which calls for a ziti or penne pasta. The long tubular pieces do a good job of holding the sauce, which is thicker than most mac and cheese mixes.

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The cream sauce is an equal mix of evaporated milk and whole milk. He also folds in two different cheeses: parmesan and cheddar. For added flavor, he add a dash of Creole seasoning and roasted garlic. The result is a macaroni and cheese that is firm and silky instead of gooey.

“It’ a classic,” he said.

 

Baked Crab Mac and Cheese

Serves 6 | Time: 30 minutes

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Ingredients:

  • 12 oz ziti or penne pasta

  • 4 tbs butter

  • 4 tbs flour

  • 8 oz evaporated milk

  • 8 oz whole milk

  • 2 pegs of garlic

  • 6 oz of cheddar cheese, extra for topping

  • 4 oz of Parmesan cheese

  • 1 tbs Creole seasoning

  • 4 oz of lump crab

PREPARATION

Step 1:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Nip ends off garlic, keeping the skin on. Place garlic into a small oven-proof dish and drizzle with olive oil, then roast in oven for 10 to 15 minutes.

Generously butter a casserole dish and set aside.

Step 2:

Bring a salted pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta until al dente. Drain and spread pasta on a sheet rack for drying.

Step 3:

Melt butter in a pot over low heat. Add flour to the melted butter. Using a whisk, incorporate the flour until smooth. Wait for the mixture to give off a subtle nutty smell before adding evaporated milk. Rigorously whisk. When the mixture begins to soften, add the whole milk and the roasted garlic. Continue to whisk until the mixture is smooth and begins to thicken. Scrape the sides and bottom constantly to avoid burning the sauce.

Step 4:

Add the cheeses. Continue to whisk, minding the sides and bottom of the pot. Add the Creole seasoning.

Step 5:

Place the crab and pasta into the casserole dish. Pour three-quarters of the cheese sauce onto the pasta. Thoroughly mix the pasta, crab and sauce. Pour the remaining sauce on top.

Sprinkle a handful of cheese on top. Place in oven at 450 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes.

 

Fritai New Orleans

2381 St. Claude Ave., New Orleans, LA | 504-609-3813 | Website