LB and the Sea

M went into the office Thursday, so Little Bear and I spent the day as a duo. It was mainly uneventful. I haven’t actually had too much time alone with LB yet. I mean, I’m up with him at least once a night by myself, but hours-long stretches are rare. M has been telecommuting more than usual since Bear’s birth. At first, I wasn’t sure how I would handle the first days without him, but  it was easier than I expected. Something about having fewer choices made me calmer. You wouldn’t think that one of the few choices being plonking LB in his crib to cry while I take a shower would bring me Zen, but it does. When it’s just the two of us, I gotta do what I gotta do. We are all starting to adjust to (modified) normal life again, and juggling tasks is one of them. LB is maturing every day and is increasingly able to occupy himself. As much as I dislike hearing him upset, it’s exciting to go fetch him after washing dishes and discover that the tears have dried and he’s staring at himself in his little mirror. It’s like watching his brain wrinkle day by day.

When M got home, he wanted, as he does sometimes, to go to the beach. With one thing and another, it didn’t happen. So I cooked a seafood dish instead.

And two days later, our little Yankee baby saw the ocean for the first time.

Crab and Ricotta Manicotti

Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis’ Everyday Pasta

This was rich, decadent, and pretty easy to throw together. Finally, cooking felt normal and graceful again. What a relief.

My only changes were using claw meat instead of lump (which is so expensive!), dried basil instead of fresh, and shredded Italian cheese blend instead of Parmesan (which I did have but didn’t want to take the time to grate). I used eleven manicotti, but I probably could have used ten and stuffed them fuller. This recipe makes 4 cups of sauce, I ended up with over a cup extra, even after nearly submerging the manicotti. Be aware of that, as I didn’t rescale the recipe here.

  • 1 box manicotti pasta (about 12 shells)
  • 1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • ¾ cup shredded mixed Italian cheeses, plus ¼ cup for sprinkling
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons dried basil
  • 1 pound crabmeat, lump if you’re splurging, picked over for shells
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • butter, for the pan
  • For the Béchamel:
    • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • ½ cup all-purpose flour
    • 4 cups whole milk
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
    • ¼ teaspoons ground nutmeg

Make the Béchamel: Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the milk a bit at a time, whisking constantly, until thickened and smooth. Do not boil. Remove from the heat and add the salt, pepper, and nutmeg. (You can make the sauce up to 3 days in advance. Let it cool before storing, covered, in the fridge.)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the manicotti and cook until al dente, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Drain.

In a mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, ¾ cup of the shredded cheese, the egg yolk, basil, crab, salt, and pepper.

Fill the manicotti with the crab-cheese mixture and arrange in the baking dish. Pour the Béchamel over the manicotti, making sure to coat the pasta and filling the dish about halfway up the sides. You will probably have plenty of extra sauce. Sprinkle with the rest of the cheese. Bake until sauce is bubbling and the top is browning lightly, about 20 minutes. Serve right away, spooning sauce over the plated manicotti if needed.


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