Wednesday, February 19, 2014

L is for: Lobster Macaroni and Cheese

I've about had it with winter. 

I know, all my California friends are quietly mouthing "I told you so" after declaring I was moving to Connecticut about a year ago.

Today was awful. We already have mountains of snow piled up everywhere you turn, and today's weather couldn't decide if it wanted to snow or rain. I literally looked out the window this morning and it was snowing, and when I glanced back up a minute later, it had turned to rain. 

When I went to run errands, the rain was turning to ice as soon as it hit my windshield.


It's the kind of weather that demands warm, comforting food. But it also makes you yearn for summer. This macaroni and cheese is the perfect blend of both things. Warm, comforting mac and cheese... paired with buttery chunks of lobster, a summertime staple in New England.

While lobster can technically be fished all year round, it's definitely a food that elicits visions of warm summer days. I grabbed some frozen tails from my favorite butcher (Hall's grocery) for $5 apiece and cooked them under the broiler for a couple of minutes slathered in butter. I also saw cooked lobster meat at Whole Foods (more expensive), and I believe I saw cooked, frozen lobster meat at Trader Joe's the other day. I'd recommend about 6 ounces of cooked lobster chunks for this recipe...though feel free to use more or less depending on your budget. (I should also note that this recipe would be fabulous as well without the lobster if it's too expensive for your tastes or you can't find any). 

Onto my favorite ingredient of all time: cheese. I heart cheese so very much, and it's really hard not eating it 6 days a week. But guess what? That's why the slow carb diet incorporates a cheat day!! Woo. Hoo. 

For my cheese sauce, I incorporated three types of cheese: sharp white cheddar, gruyere, and fontina because I love the way it melts. (Try your hardest not to grate your freshly done fingernail when grating the cheese. Ouch!)

For the white sauce, you'll need a roux. This sounds fancy, but it's really just fat and flour. Melt two tablespoons of butter over medium heat and add two tablespoons of flour. Cook for a couple minutes to get rid of the raw flour taste. Meanwhile, warm 2 cups of whole milk on a nearby burner.

Slowly add the warm milk to the roux, constantly whisking to avoid lumps. Allow the sauce to simmer and thicken, about 5-10 minutes longer, stirring often to avoid scorching.

Then... my favorite part. The cheese. Remove the white sauce from the heat and stir in the cheese. It will seem like there's too much at first, but trust me the amount is juuuuuust right. If it doesn't seem like it's melting completely, I give you permission to return the pan to the heat on LOW... but just for a little bit until the cheese melts and you're left with a velvety cheese sauce.

And when I say velvety... I mean... VEL-VET-Y. Look at that delicious, smooth sauce. So sexy. (Yes, I just called a cheese sauce sexy. Deal with it. It's fact).

Also... this is the time to add any seasonings. It would be great with simply some salt and cracked pepper, but I also went the traditional cheese/white sauce route and added some dry mustard and a *pinch* of freshly grated nutmeg. I know, sounds gross, but I promise you won't taste it and it will help enhance and deepen the flavor of the sauce and the mustard will bring out the sharpness of the cheese. But I give you permission to omit both if you are really opposed. I also added a little cayenne because I love spice, but you can certainly leave that out as well. 

Hopefully throughout all of this cheese-worshipping you've timed it out so your pasta is cooked perfectly al dente when the white sauce is ready. (I went with cavatappi because it screams "FUN!", but use whichever pasta your little heart desires, as long as it has plenty of "nooks.") Drain the pasta and add to the sexy cheese sauce. Gently fold in the cooked lobster.

At this point, you have two options. You can either eat as-is for more of a creamy sauce-heavy mac n cheese... OR... you can divide it into two dishes and bake in the oven with a bread crumb mixture sprinkled on top. Both are good options. I'm not going to make this decision for you. This is something you must decide for yourself.

If you do decide to go the oven/bread crumb route, mix together 1/2 cup of bread crumbs (either fresh or panko...mine happened to be Italian panko because that's what I had on hand), 2 tablespoons melted butter, and 1/4 cup of grated Romano or Parmesan cheese.

Bake at 350 until bubbly and browned in spots. (You can run under the broiler for a few minutes if you'd like). And then.... 3, 2, 1... devour.

I call this "lobster mac for two." While it's *technically* enough to make four side servings, I have a feeling you will be sad you have to share it with 3 other people. So narrow it down to one, and share this with him or her.

And then hope and pray that the snow melts soon. Summer is just around the corner.

Lobster Macaroni & Cheese

by Jaymee Sire
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Keywords: bake saute side entree cheese lobster macaroni pasta American Italian

Ingredients (2 large bowls (or 4 side servi)
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed (divided use)
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 ounces freshly shredded white cheddar cheese (about 1.5 cups)
  • 3 ounces freshly shredded Fontina cheese (about 1 cup)
  • 3 ounces freshly shredded Gruyere cheese (about 1 cup)
  • 1 pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • Salt & black pepper to taste
  • 8 ounces dry cavatappi pasta or pasta of your choice (choose one with lots of nooks for holding sauce)
  • 6 ounces cooke lobster, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Romano cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In small saucepan, heat milk to just below a simmer.
  3. In a saute pan, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Add flour and whisk to combine. Let cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.
  4. Gradually whisk in warm milk. Continue cooking, stirring often, until sauce is simmering and thickened. Let sauce bubble gently until thick, about 5-10 minutes longer, stirring often so it doesn't scorch on the bottom.
  5. Remove from heat and stir in shredded cheeses (white cheddar, Gruyere, Fontina). Once cheeses are melted, season sauce with salt as needed. Stir in nutmeg, dry mustard and cayenne.
  6. Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just al dente. Drain and return to pot. Add cheese sauce and stir. Fold in cooked lobster chunks.
  7. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter and stir in panko bread crumbs and grated Romano cheese.
  8. Transfer pasta to 2-quart baking dish or individual serving dishes such as ramekins, French onion soup bowls, or souffle pans. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until browned on top and bubbling throughout.
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1 comment:

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