A pan of creamy macaroni and cheese studded with Dungeness crab meat
Heather Arndt Anderson / OPB


Superabundant dispatch: Dungeness crab macaroni and cheese and this week’s news nibbles

By Heather Arndt Anderson (OPB)
Feb. 2, 2024 2 p.m.

Improving on perfection with Oregon’s favorite crustacean

OPB’s “Superabundant” explores the stories behind the foods of the Pacific Northwest with videos, articles and this weekly newsletter. To keep you sated between episodes, Heather Arndt Anderson, a Portland-based culinary historian, food writer and ecologist, highlights different aspects of the region’s food ecosystem. This week she offers a recipe for Dungeness crab macaroni and cheese.

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The daylight hours are gradually climbing, but that doesn’t mean we’re ready to stop the steady train of comfort food. When it comes to a hug you can eat, what’s even better than pasta? Pasta with a creamy cheese sauce. What’s even better than that? Adding Dungeness crab, now in season in the Northwest. Adding sweet lump crab to macaroni and cheese adds an appropriate Northwest touch to celebrate Black History Month without reinventing the wheel. Soul food and comfort food have a lot of overlap (comfort food is good for the soul, after all) and Black chefs can be credited with planting many dishes firmly into the American culinary landscape. Thomas Jefferson’s chef James Hemings (who was born into enslavement and later freed) introduced macaroni and cheese to Monticello after he learned the dish in France. What’s the secret to his recipe? Read on to find out!

Black History Month, Truffle Fest, Oregon’s salty history, Portland Mercado back in business and good things in markets

Celebrating Black food all month long

February is Black History Month, and if you’ve been looking for an excuse to get out more, then why not support a Black-owned restaurant? Eater Portland has compiled a list of their favorite soul food spots, and Travel Oregon put out their own list that includes the rest of the state. If you’re looking for more ways to support Black foodways outside the service industry, check out Grandma’s Hands, a program from the Black Food Sovereignty Coalition that aims to help share home cooking skills and recipes from generation to generation.

Oregon Truffle Fest with celebrity guest

The 2024 Oregon Truffle Festival will be even more enchanting than usual, thanks to the all-star lineup of chefs, mycologists and special guest Merlin Sheldrake — author of the bestselling book “Entangled Life” and the upcoming IMAX film, “Fungi: Web of Life” (narrated by Björk). This year’s event will be an all-inclusive retreat held at Camp Westwind on the Oregon Coast. Just a few tickets are left if you’d like to join the foray and feasting. “Superabundant” newsletter writer Heather Arndt Anderson will be there.

Watch the Truffles episode of “Superabundant”

Oregon Field Guide gets salty

From Lewis and Clark’s salt cairns to Jacobsen’s modern (but not so modern) approach, a new episode of “Oregon Field Guide” looks at centuries of producing sea salt on the Oregon Coast. Watch it here.

Portland Mercado reopens after fire

After a catastrophic fire in early January, Portland Mercado has reopened its food carts. The main building that housed a meat market and grocery store is still being repaired, but the carts out front are open for take-out to eat at the covered outdoor tables. In just a few weeks, the Mercado crowdsourced more than a quarter million dollars.

Good things in markets

Not a lot to report here (crucifers and root veg and radicchio, oh my!), but California-grown cherimoyas and passion fruits are starting to stream in — what better way to pretend it’s not winter than with fresh tropical fruits? Cherimoyas, aka custard apples, are related to pawpaws and have a creamy, puddinglike texture that makes them perfect for spooning straight from their alligator-y skin. You can plant the seeds to grow as a houseplant (put it outdoors in the summer). Passion fruits should be very wrinkly before you break them open to scoop out their seedy, orange innards; scrape the pulp through a sieve and then simmer the seeds and shells in simple syrup to make an elixir perfect for tiki-inspired cocktails (tip: add a little lemon juice or citric acid to turn it bright fuchsia).

Recipe: Dungeness crab macaroni and cheese

A pan of creamy macaroni and cheese studded with lumps of Dungeness crab

A pan of creamy macaroni and cheese studded with lumps of Dungeness crab

Heather Arndt Anderson / OPB

Arriving for hotel and railroad jobs in the late 19th century and steel mill work during World War II, most Black Oregonians came from the South, so it makes sense that Southern food features so heavily in the Black dining rooms of Oregon history. Of the many iconic soul food dishes to choose from, one especially fitting for Oregon is macaroni and cheese. Not only was Oregon historically a major wheat grower and exporter (there was even a macaroni factory in Portland’s Lower Burnside neighborhood), but milk is the state beverage and Oregon’s cheese is a global phenomenon. So what could make it even more “Great Northwest”? Dungeness crab, of course — an ingredient whose commercial season has fully opened to the Washington border as of Feb. 1, just in time for Black History Month.

In contrast to the overcooked and austere version published in Oregon’s first cookbook (boiling the pasta for 20 minutes and using only three tablespoons of cheese??), James Hemings’ recipe for “macaroni pie” uses a special technique: cook the pasta in 50/50 milk/water before layering on slabs of butter and handfuls of cheese. This version is closer to the modern article, but we’ve added a hit of extra seasoning — our homemade Old Bay spiked with cayenne — to keep the crab from disappearing under all that rich, creamy sauce. Serves 6-8.


3 cups dry cavatappi or elbow macaroni

1 ~1 ½ lb cooked Dungeness crab (about 8 oz lump meat)

3 tbsp unsalted butter, divided

¼ cup all-purpose flour

½ cup heavy cream

1 ½ cups whole milk

1 tsp fine sea salt

¼ tsp ground black pepper

¼ tsp onion powder

¼ tsp cayenne or hot paprika

½ cup panko (or other coarse bread crumbs)

1 heaping tsp Old Bay or Cajun seasoning

1 lb cheese (preferably a mix of melting cheeses like Gouda, Gruyère, fontina, and/or Havarti), shredded


  1. Preheat the oven to 350º.
  2. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, then cook the pasta until al dente, about 1-2 minutes less time than the package indicates. Strain through a colander but don’t rinse.
  3. While the water is coming to a boil and the pasta is cooking, pick the meat from the crab’s legs and set aside.
  4. In a large skillet (or the pasta pot, if you want fewer dishes to wash), melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until dissolved, then cook until it’s fragrant and golden brown, about 2 minutes. Add the cream and milk until smooth and whisk assertively until the lumps are removed. Add the salt, pepper, onion powder and cayenne and reduce the heat to low. Let the sauce simmer and bubble, whisking frequently, until the sauce (a Béchamel!) is thickened and doesn’t taste like raw flour.
  5. While the Béchamel is cooking, melt the remaining tablespoon of butter in a small skillet, add the panko and stir until they’re evenly coated. Stir in the Old Bay or Cajun seasoning and set aside.
  6. Stir half the grated cheese into the Béchamel sauce (you’ve made a Mornay!), then stir in the cooked pasta. Pour half the sauced pasta into a 9″ x 13″ casserole dish, sprinkle on half the crab meat, and half the remaining cheese. Repeat with the rest of the pasta, crab and cheese, then sprinkle the buttered bread crumbs on top.
  7. Bake the macaroni and cheese until the sauce is bubbly and the top is golden brown, about 25-30 minutes.

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Tags: Superabundant newsletter, Superabundant, Food, Recipes, Recipe, Food And Farms, Crab, Crabbing, Dungeness Crab