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You’re not friends with people because you find no fault in them: you’re friends with people because their faults mesh with your own.

IPA Mac and Cheese

A few weeks ago, we hit up our Culinary Ops & Soda Guru JP Thomas to come up with a recipe using our flagship IPA, and he didn’t disappoint. He came up with a great Crab Mac and Cheese recipe with IPA.

It sounded so good, the marketing department decided to gather after work this week and give it a whirl.

After swinging by HQ to grab some freshly-canned IPAs, Scott stopped at the Acme in North Cape May to pick up provisions. He perused the pasta aisle, looking for a decent medium shell to use in the recipe while singing along to “St. Elmo’s Fire,” when some cranky woman accused him of having squandered the money he’d set aside for singing lessons.

We were doubling the recipe — an endeavor that was completely unnecessary — so he decided on two pounds of De Cicco orecchiette. Generally, you want something that’s going to hold a lot of sauce — medium shells are Scott’s first choice — but they only had cheap brands of pasta, so he went with a decent orecchiette.

On to the cheese aisle. When you’re making Mac and Cheese, don’t get cheap cheese. That’s practically the entire dish. Splurge.

You want a good cheese that’s going to melt well. Semi-hard cheeses are your best bet. With a Crab Mac and Cheese, Scott tends toward white cheeses: white cheddar, Havarti, muenster, and gouda went into this masterpiece.

He ran into Courtney, who was picking up ingredients for a salad — baby kale and baby spinach, mushrooms, wonton strips, sesame ginger dressing, yellow tomatoes, and gorgonzola cheese. Yum!

He grabbed two cans of claw crabmeat and was on his way. Don’t bother wasting your money on the lump or jumbo lump crabmeat — they’re both undoubtedly superior to the claw meat, but when crabmeat isn’t the focus of the dish, you’re really just throwing your money away. They’re also both comparatively mild — you want the strong flavor of the claw to balance against all of that cheese. Otherwise, you’re not even going to taste the crab.

He met up with Randi and Courtney at Alicia’s and got to work. After popping open a can of IPA, of course.

Well… he got to work after convincing Alicia’s husband Victor that we weren’t going to damage his baby — a six-burner gas range that would make any home chef weak in the knees. Vic spent some time working in various kitchens during his younger years and was only a little bit possessive of his gear.

After you put a pot of water on for the pasta, you start by making a basic bechamel sauce — melt the butter in a saucepan and saute the garlic. Then add the flour, mustard, and nutmeg, and stir until smooth. Gradually add the milk and cream — don’t add it too fast, or you’ll end up with chunks of flour.

Then, add the main ingredient: the Cape May IPA. Salt and pepper to taste. Bring it to a boil — at a 6.3% ABV, you’re going to want to boil off the alcohol or your dinner could get you sauced. Keep stirring as the sauce thickens.

Time to attack the cheeses.

You’re okay with cubing most of the cheese while the bechamel sauce comes to a boil. It’s going to melt either way. Randi shredded the rest of it for the top of the dish. Scott continued to stir the sauce as it thickened.

We added the cheese to the sauce and drained the pasta. We combined them both in Vic’s huge casserole dish — “No metal spoons!” — and stirred in the crabmeat. Then, we topped it with the remaining shredded cheese.

We popped it in a 400-degree oven for about 25 minutes and headed out back to throw some knives at the targets Vic has set up in the backyard.

We may have used a can of IPA as a target.

After the dish came out of the oven, the six of us sat down with cans of IPA to enjoy our feast. We were six by that point, as Randi’s boyfriend Matt had joined us.

We’d followed JP’s recipe to the letter, but it turned out to be a little too saucy. When you’re making it, you might want to cut back on the sauce or use some judgment when adding what you’ve made to the pasta. The entire recipe is too much, though.

Nonetheless, it was tasty. Very tasty. The IPA brought out the flavor of the crab nicely and it complemented the cheeses well. And it all went down easily with a can of IPA.

It was a great night while we talked about our work — the four members of the Brew Crew kept quiet as we pumped Matt for information as to what was new at Hank Sauce.

Randi implied that Scott had “cut the cheese.”

Scott and Matt bonded over the fact that Matt went to St. Augustine’s Prep in Richland, within walking distance of where Scott grew up.

Vic called Buena “the Palm Springs of Reno.”

Courtney agreed with the woman who thought Scott should have spent money on singing lessons.

Vic and Matt shared war stories of their youths spent in kitchens and caught each other up on some of the more interesting personalities they’ve met along the way.

Everyone hated on everyone else’s choice in music.

Because, you see. We spend a lot of time together, and, like any group of friends, we can get away with being callous with one another. We can rib each other about our tastes in music. We can throw barbs about where the others grew into adulthood. We can even make fun of each other’s cooking.

In spite of that, we can sit at a table and enjoy a meal together. Because that’s how friendship works. You’re not friends with people because you find no fault in them: you’re friends with people because their faults mesh with your own. Despite our incivility, despite our insults and gibes, despite the slings and arrows, a meal shared with friends is a very good meal indeed.

Add a frosty can of Cape May IPA, and you’ve got a night to remember.

JP’s recipe, for posterity:

1 lb pasta (elbow, bowtie, spirals)
2 cloves of garlic minced
4 tbs butter
1 cup flour
1 tbs ground mustard
pinch of nutmeg
Salt and Pepper
2.5 Cups of Milk
3oz heavy cream
6oz Cape May IPA
5 Cups of Shredded cheese (cheddar, gouda, muenster, any semi-hard cheese)
4 oz parmesan
1 lb of claw crabmeat

  1. In a large pot boil pasta until cooked al dente.
  2. In another large pot, heat butter over medium-high heat. Add garlic, cook and stir for 1 minute.
  3. Stir in the flour, mustard, and nutmeg until smooth.
  4. Gradually whisk in the milk, beer and cream, season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Reduce heat.
  5. Slowly stir in 2 cups shredded cheese, and 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese until melted.
  6. Drain macaroni; stir into sauce.
  7. Add crabmeat and stir
  8. Transfer to a greased 3-qt. baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining cheddar and Parmesan cheeses.
  9. Bake, uncovered, at 400° for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown and heated through.
  10. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Yield: 10 -12 servings.