Lobster. Macaroni. Cheese. Heaven.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Sometimes you can find something in food that takes it to a whole new level, a skyrocketing trip into the stratosphere of heavenly goodness and complete satisfaction. Such is the destination when you combine a few ingredients: pasta, cheese, truffle and lobster. The pillowy clouds of carbohydrate goodness float in the sea of melted cheese, as chunks of tender lobster poached in butter navigate through with force of texture. And the turbo booster into heaven: white truffle oil.

Uh huh.

I'll wait for you to get a napkin. Go head. I understand.

Most of us wait to go to a fancy restaurant to drop up to $40 for such a meal, but no more! I've recreated it. Based on my friend Rogers's excellent macaroni & cheese recipe, I added here and mixed in there to recreate one of my favorite side dishes of all time I had for my birthday last year at Mastro's in Newport Beach.

So strap yourselves in and enjoy the ride with my recipe for:

Lobster Mac & Cheese with 3 Cheeses and White Truffle
2 (10-14 oz) lobster tails*
1/2 pound medium-sized pasta shells (about half the box)
1 stick + 1/2 stick of unsalted butter, divided
1/4 cup "scant" all-purpose flour**
2 large cloves of garlic, minced (about 1 tsp worth)
1/2 cup half & half, heated on stove
1/2 cup whole milk
kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground white pepper
1/4 tsp creole seasoning (recommended: Tony Chachere's)
small pinch of ground nutmeg
1 cup freshly grated Danish style fontina cheese (recommended: Denmark's)
1.5 cups freshly grated white sharp cheddar cheese (recommend: Beecher's)
1/4 cup finely grated Romano cheese (or Parmesan)
1 tsp white truffle oil
breadcrumbs for topping (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Using a pair kitchen scissors or a sharp chef's knife, carefully remove the lobster meat from the shell. See notes below for suggestions on how to do this.

Melt 1 stick of butter in a saucepan, and drop the raw lobster tails in the melted butter. Cut the tails in half to fit if you have to. Poach the lobster in the butter until almost cooked through, about 5 minutes. Don't worry if the middle is still raw, as it will finish cooking when you bake the macaroni and cheese. Once done, remove from heat and let stand to cool. Once cooled enough to handle, chop up the lobster into bite-sized pieces and set aside. Prepare your pasta and cheese sauce now.

Set your cream on the stove to warm on very low heat in a small saucepan. You don't want to boil or scald the cream; just heat it through so you can add it to the roux while warm.

Add pasta to a pot of boiling water salted with a good amount of kosher or sea salt (a large pinch's worth), and cook for 9 minutes. You want the pasta slightly under al dente because it will continue to cook in the oven and you don't want it to get too soft. Strain as usual and set aside in a large mixing bowl. Now make the cheese sauce.

Melt the remaining 1/2 stick butter in a saucepan. Once butter has just melted (it has to melt completely), add the flour all at once and begin whisking immediately. Your heat should be medium-low. You are making a white roux or "roux blanc" so make sure you do not leave it alone at this point; you need to keep whisking and stirring. Cook the roux for 3-4 minutes, so the raw flour gets cooked out and you're left with a very smooth roux. Add the garlic and cook for another minute, until garlic is fragrant. Add the warmed cream, a little at a time, constantly whisking. The roux will clump up immediately once the liquid is introduced so don't panic; just keep stirring and whisking to smooth it out. Keep doing this until all the cream is used up. Once the cream has been incorporated, add the whole milk all at once and stir. At this point you can switch to a wooden spoon. Season the roux with salt to taste (about 1/2 tsp is good), and add the white pepper, creole seasoning, and nutmeg. Give it a stir to combine then remove from heat. Now add your cheese: all all the fontina, 1 cup of the cheddar (reserving 1/2 cup for the topping), and the grated Romano. Stir vigorously to combine. The sauce will clump up again because you're introducing cold cheese to a hot cream sauce; this is normal. Keep stirring to encourage the cheeses to melt. The cheddar will be the last one to melt. You can put the sauce back on a low flame to help it melt as well, but make sure you're stirring constantly! Give it a final taste and adjust with salt or seasonings as desired.

Once the sauce is melted, thick and thoroughly cheesed, it's time to assemble. Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta. Add the chopped lobster. Add the truffle oil (to taste!) and gently fold all of the ingredients together, careful not to break up the lobster meat or the pasta. Pour the mixture into a buttered casserole dish and top with remaining cheddar cheese and breadcrumbs if desired.

Bake in oven for approximately 30 minutes or until cheese is melted. Serve immediately.

*You can use frozen lobster tails for this, but just make sure they're thawed out before using. A quick way to thaw out is to place lobster tails (still in the plastic bag they came in from the store) in a bowl of warm water. Let them stand, submerged in the water ideally, for about 20 minutes or until thawed. Conversely you can leave them overnight in a refrigerator to thaw, but my method is much faster. :)

**"Scant" means approximately. For this it means between 3/4 and 1 cup of flour. It doesn't have to be exact, so no need to level off anything.

My Notes:
To remove the lobster meat from the shell, turn the lobster over so the underside is exposed. Run your scissors along the middle, carefully snipping through the thin shell. Turn the tail over and do the same with the top shell, but be careful as the top is considerably tougher than the underside. Carefully slide your fingers under the shell and start to break apart the shell to the side. You only need to remove about the first 1/4 part of the shell. Then pinch the tail fins with one hand, and use your other hand to gently pull out the meat all in one piece. Discard shells or freeze to make lobster bisque or fish stock later.

I like using a creole seasoning blend for just a pinch because it adds great flavor and the smallest hint of heat. Creole blends will have cayenne and paprika along with other spices, so it also gives the overall dish a nice color as well that's subtle and flavored. If you can't find it or don't want to use it, then you can substitute with a small pinch of cayenne and paprika.

You can find truffle oil at specialty grocery stores or order online. I get mine from Sapphire Pantry in Laguna Beach.

1 comment:

Amanda Ebner said...

I have to bookmark this recipe for my next pre-marathon carboload. AMAZING!