lobster macaroni and cheese
The first time I ate lobster was at the wedding rehearsal dinner of a friend from high school who was getting married. Lobster tails were served with something, probably steak, but the lobster was so tough and rubbery — and just plain bad — that I don’t recall anything else that was served that night. Of course, that may be pretty typical of wedding rehearsal dinners. I don’t even recall what I had at my own.
I’ve had lobster prepared really well a handful of times, but two stand out in my memory. The first was in the Bahamas when my husband and I spent a long weekend on Green Turtle Cay. I was pregnant with my son at the time, and we had left our then two-year-old daughter with her grandparents. At a beachfront barbecue at our hotel, lobsters fresh from the ocean were grilled and served with melted butter, and they were just perfect. The second was the lobster pot pie on the tasting menu at Michael Mina in Las Vegas, where my husband and I again traveled sans-children for a long weekend of fun and good eating.
Looking back, it’s possible that it was the context that made those lobsters so delicious. After all, both times my husband and I were on vacation without our children, enjoying a weekend of no parenting and all fun. It’s entirely possible.
Regardless, when this month’s copy of Saveur arrived in my mailbox and I saw the Lobster Macaroni and Cheese recipe, I knew that I had to make it. Cooking the lobster – and potentially ruining it – was not something I was keen on doing, however. Plus, I’m not quite up to the emotional challenge of killing a live lobster by shoving it into a pot of boiling water à la the scene in Julie & Julia. I was spared the lobster drama by finding that our fish market sells great lobster and they’ll even steam it on request.
After reading the recipe in the magazine, and then the one next to it for Artisanal Macaroni and Cheese, I decided to blend the two. The recipe below is an adapted version of those two recipes, and the dish was amazing. With the first bite, I was nearly speechless. But not totally speechless – I think I did utter, “Oh, my God.”
There is just one downside to this recipe — the amount of gym time I’m now going to have to put in to work it off my hips.
For a wine pairing, I wanted something that would be able to cut through the richness of the dish. I was thinking of either a not-very-oaky Chardonnay or a dry Riesling, or maybe even a sparkling wine or rosé. I ended up choosing this 2007 Beringer Napa Valley Chardonnay, and I think it was a good choice. It wasn’t very creamy or heavy at all, and it had great acidity and a refreshing quality to it – great for cutting through the richness of the cheese and lobster in this dish.
Yield: Serves 8.
Lobster Macaroni and Cheese
Kosher salt, to taste
12 ounces elbow macaroni
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup dried breadcrumbs, preferably panko
1 cup finely grated Parmesan
1/4 cup flour
3 1/2 cups milk
4 ounces grated Gruyère (about 1 1/2 cups)
4 ounces grated Comte (about 1 1/2 cups)
4 ounces grated fontina (about 1 1/2 cups)
8 ounces cooked lobster meat, cut into 1 inch chunks*
1/3 cup minced chives
2 scallions, thinly sliced crosswise
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bring a 4 quart saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until not quite al dente, about 3-4 minutes. Drain pasta, transfer to a bowl, and set aside.
Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a 4-quart saucepan over low heat. Add the breadcrumbs and Parmesan, toss to combine, and transfer to a small bowl. Set aside.
Wipe out the pan and set over medium heat. Melt the remaining butter and whisk in the flour until smooth. Whisk in the milk and cook, continuing to whisk often, until the sauce coats the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes. Stir in the Gruyère, 1 cup of the Comte, and 1 cup of the fontina and whisk until the cheese is melted and incorporated. Season with salt and pepper.
Remove pan from heat and stir in the reserved pasta. Add in the cooked lobster pieces, half of the chives, and half of the scallions. Stir well to combine.
Pour the mixture into a 9 x 13 inch baking dish and top with the remaining Comte and fontina. Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture over the top and bake until golden brown and bubbly, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
*I purchased lobster from my local fish market and they steamed it for me. If you have a fish market you trust, you can use this method. Alternatively, you can poach or steam your own live lobster. I am not that brave and have not yet tried cooking a live lobster.