When early June rolls around each year, I start dreaming of lobster. Not quite literally, of course, but it’s a food I feel no summer in New England would be complete without. Bright red, juicy claw meat dipped in butter. The struggle to bust the tail out of the shell…and then dipped in melted butter. A side of local sweet corn rolled in salt, pepper, and yes, more butter. It’s quite a meal and my gosh I love it!
Sometimes I hold off on this if we have a vacation planned so that I can indulge at a wooden picnic table under an umbrella with the salty sea air spritzing my face but this summer I couldn’t wait. Until the last couple weeks of July, we had no vacation planned and I was starting to fret that I’d miss out on one of my favorite summer treats. So I made lobster mac n’ cheese. It’s a recipe I’ve had on my to-make list for what seems like years and it certainly didn’t disappoint. And really, it was no more difficult to make than regular mac n’ cheese.
If you can’t find cooked lobster in your seafood market or grocery store and you’re petrified of cooking a whole lobster, see if you can find frozen tails. You’ll need to thaw them in the fridge first, but steaming them only takes about 12 minutes. And that’s the most complicated thing about the whole recipe – the rest is just a basic mac n’ cheese recipe. We devoured this mac n’ cheese for a casual Friday night dinner (a halved recipe for the two of us) and ate the leftovers for lunches but if you’re having company, this would be a fantastic meal to serve – fancy and comforting at the same time!
Lobster Mac n’ Cheese
source: adapted from Ina Garten
- 1 lb cavatappi or elbow macaroni
- 8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 cups milk (skim is fine)
- 12 oz Gruyere cheese, grated (4 cups)
- 8 oz extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (2 cups)
- 1 tsp Kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1 1/2 lbs cooked lobster meat, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
- 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Set aside a 13×9-inch baking dish or 6 to 8 individual gratin dishes. Cook pasta according to package directions in a large stockpot but cut the cook time down by 3 minutes – it will finish cooking in the oven; drain pasta well and return it to the hot pot.
- Meanwhile, melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 1/2 minutes, whisking constantly. Slowly whisk the milk into the butter-flour mixture (called a roux) until no lumps remain. Heat the milk, stirring frequently, until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon and starts to bubble in the center of the saucepan (this should take about 5-7 minutes). Once it bubbles, let it cook, stirring the bottom of the pan to prevent burning, for 2 minutes. Off the heat, add in a handful of cheese, stirring it into the milk with a rubber spatula until it is completely melted; repeat with the remaining cheese. Stir in the salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
- While the milk cooks, melt the 2 remaining tablespoons of butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Toss in the bread crumbs with the melted butter and toast them until they are golden brown, stirring occasionally at first then frequently towards the end. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
- Add the lobster meat into the cheese sauce then pour the entire mixture over the hot pasta in the stockpot. Mix everything together well, making sure the pasta is well-coated with the sauce. Transfer to the baking dish(es) and place it/them to a baking sheet to avoid spillage on the bottom of the oven. Sprinkle the bread crumbs evenly over the top of the mac n’ cheese. Bake the large dish for 45-50 minutes and the smaller dishes for 30-35 minutes, until the mac n’ cheese is bubbly. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.