Full disclosure. This is NOT a family recipe. Good Lord, I shudder to think what my parents, ancestors, or anyone else upstream in my gene pool (with the possible exception of my beautiful and elegant Aunt Pat!) would think about this amazing, decadent, and delicious recipe. But after having this at a restaurant in NYC once, I came home and after a bit of tinkering came up with this version. I’ve made it for both work and family and received loud and exuberant rave reviews!
So, a few facts about Mac and Cheese here in Texas and the South. One: mac and cheese was a country, po’ folk dish. This one is not. Two: our Mac and Cheese below the Mason/Dixon has a pinch of mustard powder in it. It adds a nice little zing that plays nicely with the cheese(es). You seldom see that in Northern versions. Three: Mac and Cheese is never every-night fare. It is a special occasion treat, with the obvious nod that around here Sunday dinner IS a special occasion. And if you eat mac-n-cheese daily it’s probably the boxed kind, which I refuse to put in the same category as home-made (although honestly I do like it, just like I like McDonald’s burgers—I just don’t call those “real” burgers just as I don’t call boxed Mac-N-Cheese made with the yellow cheesey powder real!)
With that said….this version is ridiculously off-the-tracks good, and just enough different to be awesome. In addition to the mustard, I add a little Old Bay seasoning, a nod to the star of the show, the lobster! I break the normal Cheddar (or God forbid that stuff in the yellow box) used into 3 different cheeses, all complimentary yet distinctive in their own right. This makes a meaty, filling entree—there is a LOT of lobster in this dish—all you need is some good bread (sourdough with garlic butter would work) and a great salad with a nice vinaigrette is a complete meal. A meal fit for royalty. Or a Vanderbilt, or a Gates, or a Bezos, or a….well, you get the idea.
BILL’S LOBSTER MAC-AND-CHEESE (Serves 8 to 10)
WHAT YOU’LL NEED:
1 lb pasta (I normally use Penne Rigate—love the ridges)
3 lbs. cooked Lobster meat (frozen cooked meat is fine—save the juice!)
12 oz. each extra-sharp cheddar, gruyere*, and chevre goat cheese
1 stick butter plus 2 tablespoons (divided use)
1 c. flour
1 quart milk
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup dry Sherry
½ cup seafood stock, shrimp stock, *or* the reserved juices from frozen lobster meat packages
2 tsp. Old Bay
1 tsp. salt
1 T. black pepper
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
1 c. Panko breadcrumbs for topping
*–you can substitute aged Swiss for the Gruyere. If you do, add 2 T of Parmesan.
TO MAKE THIS DECADENT DISH:
1. If frozen, defrost lobster meat. Allow to come to room temp. Chop into the size you want in the finished dish. (Save the juices from the packet!)
2. Cook pasta to package directions and drain.
3. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
4. Over medium-high heat, melt 1 stick (8 T) of the butter. Add the flour and whisk for 2 to 3 minutes just to cook the flour taste out—you don’t want to brown this. Blonde is the color to aim for!
5. Add the milk and cream and stir continuously until the sauce begins to thicken.
6. Add the sherry, thyme leaves, mustard, Worcestershire, and seafood juice/stock/whatever. Stir for 1 more minute then remove from heat.
7. Add cheeses and whisk until sauce is smooth.
8. Combine pasta and sauce and place into a deep 9 X 13 casserole and place in oven for 15 minutes. (DO NOT PUT LOBSTER IN AT THIS POINT!)
9. Melt the remaining 2 T of butter, and toss the Panko in the buttery goodness.
10. After 15 minutes, remove casserole and THEN add the lobster, stirring it thoroughly through the dish. Turn oven to Broil.
11. Top with the buttered Panko and place under the broiler for 3-4 minutes (watching carefully) and remove when it’s golden brown.
12. Serve hot, and just enjoy it!
That’s the secret recipe, folks. If you make it—leave a comment and let me know. DAYUM it’s good!