I was in the mood for some comfort food and mac and cheese came to mind. I love mac and cheese, but not the greasy and overly creamy versions. This is a four-cheese mac and cheese with lobster meat added to really make it fancy. You can make this exact dish without the lobster too. I used lived lobsters since I live in New England and they are readily available; however, you could use canned lobster or crab meat instead.
Lobster Mac & Cheese (serves 4):
- 2 1-1/4 pound lobsters
- 1 cup blanched broccoli florets
- 8 ounces macaroni elbows or similar pasta
- 6 ounces mild cheddar cheese
- 3 ounces Gruyere cheese
- 2 ounces Fontina cheese
- 2 ounces Parmesan cheese
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 3 cups whole milk
- 1/2 cup finely diced onion
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/8 nutmeg
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs
I steeped the lobsters according to Thomas Keller in his book, The French Laundry Cookbook. This way the I could remove the meat from the shell before it was fully cooked knowing it would cook completely while baking in the mac and cheese. I didn’t want to overcook the lobster making it chewy. I used my Le Creuset 5-quart oval French oven to steep each lobster individually, according to Keller’s book.
Once the lobsters were partially cooked, I used my Chicago Cutlery kitchen scissors to cut along the bottom of the shell of each tail. I could then crack it open and remove the tail meat intact.
For the claws, first remove the two knuckles attached to each claw. Just twist them off. You can usually push the meat out of the knuckles with your finger. Sometimes it may take a whack with a hammer though to break up some of the shell.
I wanted the claws to be as intact as possible, making for a great presentation in the finished dish. I carefully removed the bottom pincer of each claw, leaving the meat attached to the rest of the shell. Then, using a meat tenderizing hammer I cracked each claw at the top, about 1/4 of the way in from the base. This allowed me to remove the shell and keep the claw meat intact. It works perfectly every time.
Once you have all the meat from the tail, knuckles, and claws, cut it up into large chunks, leaving the claws as whole as possible.
Once you have the lobster meat, you are ready to make the mac and cheese. The lobster meat can hang out in the refrigerator for a few hours on a plate covered with plastic wrap if you want to prepare it ahead of time.
Begin by preheating the oven to 350-degrees and bringing a large pot of salted water to a boil for the macaroni. Don’t add the pasta yet, however. To make the sauce for mac and cheese, begin by heating the milk over medium heat. You want it very hot, but not simmering or boiling. I used my All-Clad 1-quart sauce pan for this.
Meanwhile, in an All-Clad 2-quart sauce pan melt the butter over medium heat. Once it is melted, add the flour and continue to whisk over medium to low heat for about 5 minutes. You are making a basic roux and you don’t want it to brown but still cook long enough to remove the flour taste.
After you have cooked the roux for about 5 minutes, add the hot milk while continuing to whisk. Add a little bit at first, whisk to incorporate, then add more milk. You now transforming your roux into a bechamel sauce.
Once all the milk is incorporated, add the onion, cayenne, nutmeg, bay leaf, and paprika. Whisk to incorporate and allow this to simmer for about 10 minutes. This will give you time to grate the cheeses and cook your macaroni. Cook the pasta so it is truly al-dente. You want it to be a bit chewy as it will cook more in the oven during the next steps.
After the sauce has cooked for about 10 minutes remove the bay leaf and add 3/4 of the grated cheese to the sauce pan. Stir to melt and incorporate.
Once the sauce is smooth and the pasta is cooked, mix them in a bowl. Carefully fold in the lobster meat and blanched broccoli florets. Transfer the mixture to a Pyrex 3-quart baking dish.
Sprinkle the remaining cheese then the bread crumbs over the top.
Bake the dish in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. The top should turn golden brown and the entire dish will be bubbling.
Let the dish cool a bit before serving.