Thursday, February 16, 2012

Lobster Mac & Cheese

I think lobster mac & cheese is an awesome thing to serve guests. It's a v. affordable way to stretch an expensive ingredient and it's really homey and comforting and great for a winter night meal. **You can remove the lobster from this recipe to make regular mac & cheese.

Ingredients [serves 4]:
1 butter poached lobster (1 whole lobster, 3/4ths stick of butter, 1 tablespoon water)

1/2 lb pasta, which is about half the box - I used shells to go with the seafood theme but I also love using cavatappi to make mac & cheese, or you can use macaroni or any other short cut pasta
1 teaspoon sea salt

2-1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese (10 oz. chunk)
1/2 cup grated asiago cheese (or you can use parmesan or pecorino or any other salty Italian cheese)
1/4 cup brie cheese, cut into chunks (3 oz. chunk)
1-1/2 cups milk
leftover beurre monté
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 small onion, finely diced
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs

First, I started by getting a huge pot of water on the stove boiling for the pasta and grating the cheeses.

And chopping the onions and mincing the garlic.
Meanwhile, I took the shell I'd removed from the lobster tail and added it to a saucepan with the milk and let it warm up over low heat. Be careful not to let the milk get any hotter than a simmer or it might boil over. It's not necessary to put the shell in the milk, but I think it adds another level of lobstery flavor to the mac & cheese.

Next, I poached the lobster (according to the directions from yesterday's post). I put the lobster in a ramekin, poured two tablespoons of the leftover butter monté over the top, and set it aside.
There were about 4 tablespoons of butter monté left in the saucepan. I added the onions and garlic to the butter and let it saute over medium heat until the onions were translucent. Then I added in plenty of fresh ground black pepper and whisked it all together. **This is also a good time to check your pasta water. If it's boiling, add in some salt and the pasta, stir to make sure nothing sticks, and let it cook until it's al dente.



Once the onions were soft, I added in the flour and started whisking immediately to make sure no clumps formed. This is called a roux, a.k.a. a thickening agent made with a fat and flour. It started off really thick and tight and it was a workout to whisk it, but eventually, as the flour cooked through, the mixture started to relax and "melt" and transition from being really solid into a more liquidy state.
As soon as the roux became "melty," I poured in the milk slowly, whisking to make sure there were no lumps. Keep an eye on the sauce and keep whisking until it comes to a boil. This sauce is called a béchamel. The sauce must come to a boil for the roux to achieve its full thickening potential - this is true of any thickening agent, be it cornstarch, roux, arrowroot, or even leftover pasta water.
Once the béchamel was thick and bubbly, it was time to add the cheese. I slowly added the cheddar, handful by handful, whisking to melt and combine. I reserved about 1/4 cup of cheddar and set it aside. I did the same with the brie and asiago, whisking to combine, and reserved 2 tablespoons of asiago and set that aside as well.
Meanwhile, my pasta was ready so I drained it and put it in a large bowl. **At this point, I also set my oven on *BROIL* - which is the hottest it can go.
The cheese sauce was nice and smooth so I poured it over the pasta and mixed it together.
Then I took the butter poached lobster, chopped it up (took a taste - seriously, most tender lobster you'll ever have) and stirred it into the pasta. Then I poured the whole thing into a buttered casserole dish.
I used the remaining two tablespoons of beurre monté (that I had poured over my lobster) and stirred in 1/4 cup of panko breadcrumbs and the asiago that I'd set aside.
I sprinkled the leftover cheddar over the pasta and then covered it all with the crumb topping.
I put the pasta in the broiler for just two minutes until the crumb topping browned. It's important not to leave it in the oven for too long or else the lobster will overcook and the butter poaching will have been for nothing.
I served my mac & cheese with the kale from Tuesday's post to balance the carb and fat and cholesterol overload of the lobster and cheese and pasta.

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