When my daughter first began expressing her culinary opinion there was one favorite dish: penne pasta with butter and cheese. As grade school social pressure exerted its influence that evolved into the blue box.
Problem number one was this: my only real exposure to mac and cheese was the contents of those same blue boxes during my own childhood. So I really didn’t have a clear idea of what a good mac and cheese ought to taste like. Mac and cheese was just not something that held a meaningful place in my culinary world. And it definitely was not a dish in my culinary wheelhouse.
It was not until her freshman high school year that I put a foot in those waters. When I did, a tradition was born. When all else failed I would make her a “real mac n cheese.” Last night, the latest episode in the continuing series, we did the king of mac n cheese: lobster mac and cheese.
No blue box involved.
Lobster Mac and Cheese
For the Cheese Sauce
- 4 cups milk
- 1 shallot, minced
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
- 6 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 nutmeg (whole)
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 3 cups good quality English-style cheddar, grated
- 2 cups Gorganzola (or other good quality Blue cheese), cut in small pieces
For the Lobster
- One 3 pound lobster
For the Macaroni
- 1 pound penne (or a combination of pastas)
- Kosher salt
- Olive oil
For the Garnish
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ¼ cup thinly sliced prosciutto (optional)
- 4 basil leaves
- Begin making the Bechemel. Bring two large pots of water to a boil and preheat the oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a heavy saucepan. Add the flour, and whisk over low heat for 5 minutes taking care not to brown the roux. Remove from the heat.
- Parboil the Lobster. Kill the lobster by inserting the tip of a chef’s knife into the top of the head, pulling it forward about an inch all in one rapid, merciful movement. Alternatively, if you are either squeamish or don’t care, place the lobster, head first, into the pot and cover with a lid. Cook the lobster for 10 minutes. Remove the lobster from the pot using long tongs. Refrigerate the lobster to cool or simply allow it to cool on a cutting board. When the lobster is cool enough to handle, remove all of the meat from the shell taking care to keep the tail and claws whole. To do so, snip through bottom sides of tail shells with shears and remove meat. Separate the claws from the knuckles by twisting off the knuckles, and reserve. Hold the claw, pull down on small pincer and pull it off. Using heavy shears, snip shell at knuckle end enough to open it; remove meat in one piece. Use shears to snip through the knuckle shell, pry open and remove the meat. Cut the tail in half lengthwise. You will use the knuckle meat in the mac and cheese and the tail and claw meat on top. Chop the knuckle meat into bite sized pieces. If you have enough attractive pieces of claw meat also chop any extra claws into bite sized pieces.
- Finish the Béchemel. Add the hot milk to the flour mixture, and whisk well. Freshly grate half the nutmeg into the béchamel along with the salt and pepper, and return the pan to the heat. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens, 5 minutes.
- Make the Pasta. When the remaining pot of water boils, add the penne and cook at a rolling boil until just tender. Drain, rinse under cold water, drain again and set aside in a large bowl.
- Finish the Cheese Sauce. While the pasta is cooking, add the cheese to the béchamel and whisk to combine. Add the sauce and the lobster meat to the bowl of pasta. You will not likely need all the sauce, reserve any extra for another purpose.
- Bake the Mac and Cheese. Butter a 13 x 9 x 2 inch flameproof baking dish, and fill it evenly with the mac and cheese. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, combine them with the fresh bread crumbs, and sprinkle on the top of the mac and cheese. Arrange the half tails and claws to the to top of the dish Place the dish under the broiler, 4 inches from the heat, until the top is slightly golden, 3-4 minutes.
- Plate the Dish. While the mac and cheese is in the oven, julienne the prosciutto and basil. Ladle the mac and cheese into serving bowls and garnish with the remaining lobster meat, prosciutto (if using) and basil.