Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Gourmet Lobster Mac & Cheese

The luscious combination of fresh poached lobster and macaroni with a creamy mascarpone, fontina and sharp cheddar cheese sauce topped with buttery panko breadcrumbs, chives and scallions creates one of the ultimate cashmere quality comfort foods. A perfect winter dish, this recipe topples the myth that seafood and cheese don't belong together. The richness of the lobster marries well the with zesty cheddar, rich mascarpone and mellow gruyere, creating a dish that is exquisitely upscale but downright delicious, and the splash of cognac sets it into overdrive.

Lobster Mac & Cheese
Serves 8

1 lb cavatappi or elbow macaroni
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 1⁄2 lb cooked lobster meat
6 tbsp unsalted butter
1⁄4 cup flour
4 cup whole milk or light cream

2 tbsp tomato paste
1/8 cup cognac
1 cup mascarpone cheese
4 tbsp clam juice
1⁄4 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
1⁄4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cup fontina cheese, grated
1 1/2 cup gruyere, grated
salt and white pepper, as needed
1⁄2 cup chives, minced
1⁄2 cup scallions white and light green parts , thinly sliced
1⁄2 cup extra-sharp white cheddar, finely grated
1 1⁄2 cup panko breadcrumbs

Heat oven to 375°F. Bring a 4-quart saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until almost cooked, about 6 minutes. Drain pasta, transfer to a bowl, toss with the oil and set aside.

Pull out about half of the biggest, firmest pieces of lobster, then neatly slice it into attractive pieces. Roughly chop the rest. Set aside.

Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a 4 quart saucepan set over medium heat. Add flour and cook, whisking constantly, until smooth, about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the milk and cook, continuing to whisk often, until sauce has thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in the mascarpone, along with the clam juice, cayenne, tomato paste and nutmeg; stir until smooth. Return the mixture to low heat and add 1 cup of the fontina cheese and 1 cup of the gruyere, stirring until smooth; season with salt and white pepper. Add reserved pasta to cheese sauce. Stir in the chopped lobster, half of the chives, and half of the scallions. Add the cognac to taste.

Transfer mixture to 8 individual skillet pans, small ramekins or a large 9" x 13" baking dish and sprinkle with remaining fontina, gruyere and the cheddar. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and combine with the panko, then sprinkle on the top of the mac and cheese. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling and the pasta is golden brown on the top. Garnish with remaining lobster slices, scallions, and chives and bake for another 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool slightly before serving.