Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Perfect fall rainy-day comfort food: Lobster mac and cheese


The tree across the street lights up like a red flame every time I open the door--especially on dark, gray, and gloomy days like today. The temperature has a bit of an edge, but the cold hasn't really set in yet. Still, it was a nice day for some rich ooey gooey comfort food like lobster mac and cheese. Of course, lobster is a luxury ingredient, but every once in a while, it's nice to splurge. This mac and cheese is almost as comforting without the lobster, or you can add some cooked, crumbled bacon and peas to replace it. (I confess I belong to that tribe of people who nearly worship bacon.)

Baked mac and cheese comprises three main parts: the pasta, the cheese sauce, and the crumbly topping. The pasta is easy enough--just read the package instructions. The cheese sauce is basically a Mornay sauce (or a Bechamel sauce with cheese in it), and the crumbly topping is a crispy mix of fresh bread crumbs, garlic, and parsley. Diving into this dish is something like opening a surprise gift: First there is the crispy golden-brown crust. Break through that, and you find a warm, silky, cheesy pasta center. Yum.


So, here's how to make it. 

Start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees.

Part 1: The Pasta and the Lobster
  • Cook 1 lb of macaroni (any shape you like, but small, chunky shapes seem to work best) according to package instructions. Drain and set it aside. 
  • Pick over 1 lb of thawed lobster (or fresh if you have it) to remove any pieces of shell. Chop the meat into bite size pieces.    

Part 2: The Cheese Sauce
  • 4 cups of shredded cheese (a blend of Gruyere and Cheddar is nice)
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 4 Tbsp AP flour
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled, smashed
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • salt (to taste)
  • 1/8 teaspoon white pepper
  • dash grated nutmeg
  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. (Don't burn or brown the butter.)
  2. Whisk the flour into the butter. Let the butter-flour mix simmer gently for a few minutes (don't let it brown). By the way, this is called a roux.
  3. Vigorously whisk the butter-flour mix, while adding the milk slowly. Add the garlic pieces. Stirring steadily, let the sauce simmer and thicken for five to 10 minutes. 
  4. Remove the garlic pieces and discard them. Add the cheese to the sauce one small handful at a time. (If you dump it all in at once, a big ole glob of cheese will sink to the bottom of your milk sauce, kerthud, and you won't be able to fix it, so take your time).
  5. When all the cheese has melted evenly into the sauce, add salt (taste it, the levels of salt in cheese can vary a lot) starting with half a teaspoon at a time, white pepper, and nutmeg. Leave the sauce over low heat while you prepare the rest of the dish. 
Part 3: The Crumbly Topping
  • 2 slices of bread, torn into pieces
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 1 Tbsp dried parsley (fresh would be better, but you have to make do sometimes)
Whir the ingredients in a food processor or blender until you get an even, fresh breadcrumb mix.

Now, here's how to put it all together:
  1. Butter a baking dish. Add the pasta to the baking dish. 
  2. Add the sauce to the pasta and stir.
  3. Add the lobster pieces (and any juices). 
  4. Mix all the stuff together in the baking dish; make sure the sauce, the lobster, and the pasta are evenly distributed.
  5. Sprinkle the crumb topping over the mix. 
  6. Slide the baking dish into a 350-degree oven and let it cook for 50 minutes until you have a golden-brown dish of deliciousness. As for me, I think it may just be time for seconds...

 

2 comments:

  1. Hi Darlin'
    Of course it was delicious. Perhaps you should mention that it was your wonderful homemade bread in the toping and offer a substitute for those folks that havent had a chance to make their own. Will panco work?

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  2. Thanks Sweetie, glad you liked it. You can use any bread that you have available, but a cup of panko would do fine in a pinch. In that case, I would suggest just mixing the parsley and some crushed garlic with the crumbs (in other words, skip the food processor, because then all you will get is a fine bready powder; probably not so yummy).

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