Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Lobster Mac 'n Cheese: A Great Marriage




If you had any notion of losing weight as one of your New Year resolutions, maybe you should stop reading.  On the other hand, you probably have great will power and can read on, bookmark the recipe and save it for a later day. (Valentine’s Day dinner, perhaps?)

Lobster Mac ‘n Cheese has to be one of the most decadent comfort foods any chef ever dreamed about.
I have to admit, when I first heard about it, I thought it a ridiculous idea.

After all, what could be more comforting than a creamy, cheesy sauce wrapping itself around pasta, topped with crunchy, buttery bread crumbs?

And lobster has always been viewed as luxury seafood. Dunking hunks of the sweet meat into melted butter is just delectable. Why would anyone want to marry these two? They were meant to live separate lives!

Or so I thought, until I had to satisfy my curiosity and tasted it while on vacation in Maine last September. I was hooked.

I liked it so much I end up “tasting” it three different times on that trip. Then I ate it at a restaurant back home. And then, finally, I had to make it at home.

Despite the fact that lobster prices have been at an all-time low this past year, it’s still pretty pricey, especially for inlanders like me. It is a good way to stretch a luxury meat, though, and make humble macaroni and cheese a company-worthy dish.

I was surprised to learn that lobster wasn’t always viewed as something special. Although lobster was in abundance to early American colonists, they didn’t care for it, preferring venison and game fowl instead, foods they were used to.


As far as macaroni and cheese goes, Thomas Jefferson is generally credited with bringing the idea of cheesy pasta back to America after spending time in France

Chefs and food lovers are always looking for ways to twist classics and put their own imprints on traditional dishes.  Lobster macaroni and cheese became popular in trendy restaurants within the past five years or so.

And now it’s become a new standard on many a restaurant menu. I have to admit that this marriage of seafood and cheese is one that just may have staying power.

Using a fun shaped-pasta makes this dish even more special. (I used a ribbed elbow, called pipe rigate, but any small shell or elbow noodle will be just fine.) 

I also didn’t want the cheese sauce to overpower the lobster, so I used mild cheeses and used clam juice in the sauce to heighten the seafood flavor. 

It’s a marriage made in . . .  well, New England!

Lobster Macaroni and Cheese
Serves 8-10
16 ounces pasta
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 cup dry seasoned bread crumbs
1⁄4 cup flour
2 cups milk
2 cups clam juice
8 ounces fontina cheese, shredded
4 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded
8 ounces cream cheese
3 tablespoons Madeira or marsala wine, optional
1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1⁄4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Meat from 2 lobster tails, cooked, or about 2 cups lobster meat


Preheat oven to 375°. Bring a large pan of water to a boil over high heat. Add pasta and 1 tablespoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, cutting a couple minutes from the recommended time on the package. Drain pasta and set aside.
Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in microwave or in a pan over low heat and mix in the dry bread crumbs. Set aside.
In a large saucepan or stock pot, melt remaining butter over medium heat.
Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, until flour mixture is smooth and just starting to darken.
Slowly stir in the milk and the clam juice and simmer, stirring frequently, until sauce has thickened, about ten minutes.
Remove pan from heat, and stir in 2-1/2 cups of the shredded cheese, the cream cheese, and the Madeira, if using.
Add cayenne and nutmeg. Stir until cheese is melted and incorporated, and adjust salt and pepper, as needed.
Add the lobster meat.
Add cooked pasta to cheese sauce.
Transfer mixture to a 9 x 13 baking dish.
Sprinkle with buttered breadcrumbs. Bake until golden brown and bubbly, about 30 minutes.

30 comments:

  1. The idea of the lobster with the creamy mac and cheese sounds very appealing to me. It's kind of like dressing up and dressing down at the same time. I've seen this and have been very tempted to make it, but probably because of the calories never got around to it. Maybe I'll have to treat us and forget the calories...
    Sam

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    1. What a great analogy, Sam -- "Dressing up and down at the same time." Go ahead, have a treat. Valentine's Day would be perfect. Let me know what wine you'd pair it with.

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  2. Oh no, not a ridiculous idea at all! Seafood, pasta, creamy sauce... heaven. This really kicks a good ol' comfort food into the realms of gourmet, Rosemary. It looks absolutely delicious and is a great way of making an expensive ingredient s-t-r-e-t-c-h! Thanks for the bit of pedigree too, I always love to know the origins of a dish.

    Happy New Year!

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    1. Two great dishes getting together can't be all bad, all, you're right, Hester. Just a tad over the top. But very, very tempting -- and very, very good.

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  3. I have been eyeing lobster mac 'n cheese recipes for about 2 years - unsure whether to to do the splurge. You're making me think it is okay. I mean - lobster rolls are crammed with stuff, right? I am thinking this is the perfect winter indulgence. Happy New Year, Rosemary!

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    1. I say -- go for it! Yes, a bit of indulgence but after a couple days of mindful eating, it would be the treat it should be.

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  4. What a great recipe to start 2013; I have been reading about lobster mac and cheese and here you are giving this; wow!. I am saving this for a special occasion; hopefully soon. My husband loves mac and cheese and lobster. What a combination to make him smile; thanks.
    Rita

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    1. I was skeptical about mixing two things I loved. But I'm happy I was wrong. It's great. Hope you enjoy, Rita. Well worth the splurge.

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  5. What were those colonists thinking? This is the ultimate luxury casserole...wondering if I could make it for Valentine's Day? Hoping picky hubby would approve b/c I really want to experience this deliciousness! Happy New Year, Rosemary!!! xo

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    1. At least Thomas Jefferson had it right about the mac 'n cheese, huh? Hope you try it, Lizzy. My picky Mr. Rosemary loved it! Happy new year to you!

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  6. Wow Rosemary, this is such an amazing sounding dish! How fun to gourmet-up an old classic recipe! Thanks for sharing and hope you're having a great start to the New Year.1

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    1. I think it's a great blend of two classics. Like Seafood Newburg. Hope your new Year is starting off great, too, Chris!

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  7. A gourmet mac and cheese! It must be very delicious.
    Happy New Year to you, Rosemary.

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    1. I'm glad I decided to make it at home, Angie. A pretty homey gourmet meal.

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  8. Replies
    1. Whoever had the idea to combine the two in the first place was a genius, Jay.

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  9. Thanks for this great recipe! I've only ever ordered this in a restaurant. I don't know why I've nver thought to make it at home - this looks just perfect!

    Happy New Year, Rosemary!

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    1. It's just mac 'cheese with lobster added, but what an addition, Susan!

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  10. I must admit that up until now I have not gone down this road, but you have certainly convinced me. Not that I need much persuasion when mac and cheese is involved.

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    1. Mac 'n cheese has to be a favorite comfort food with a lot of people. At first I though - why screw that up? Then I thought -- don't be so judgmental; give it a try. Glad I did.

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  11. What a scrumptious meal.. love it! Happy New Year what a way to start with this awesome dish!

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    1. Better tone it down from here on out, huh, Claudia? I'll be god. I won't have this for a while.

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  12. This looks simply deliciously decadent. I've heard of lobster mac n' cheese but never ate one. Oh, what I've been missing.

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    1. Have to admit, it was a bit over-the-top, Linda, but oh, so very good!

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  13. Rosemary, this looks delish! But when I clicked on "Good Reads" page, I got this message: "Sorry, the page you were looking for in this blog does not exist." Is there some sort of glitch, or is it my computer? Wishing you a wonderful 2013!

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    1. Hey, thanks for the heads up -- I'll be fixing that!

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  14. This is one original recipe. I know mac and cheese but so far I did not have pleasure to taste it. Maybe I will go one step further and make it with lobster. Sounds and looks amazing.

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    1. . . . and really delicious, too. Hope you try it, Marta.

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  15. Replies
    1. Inviting for sure, and healthy for the soul!

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I realize you don't have to take the time to comment . . . but it makes my day! So glad you decided to stay.