Time really does fly. It was about thirty years ago that mac and cheese entered my life. I was in the first grade and my friend Tammy had given me a written invitation to have lunch at her house. For a six year old, the written invitation was pretty spectacular but the meal that ensued put me over the edge. Her mom made us Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. I clearly remember thinking it was the best thing I had ever tasted. I went home that day and told my mom about the glorious meal I had eaten at Tammy's. I've been a loyal customer ever since.
At the grocery store the other day, my 3 1/2 year old son and I were passing by the seafood section. He saw these pretty lobster tails all stacked up like bricks on a bed of crushed ice. The man behind the counter asked if we needed anything and my boy replied "I think we need some lobster." Who am I to reject a perfectly reasonable request? So I bought three tails! The first thing that came to mind was lobster mac and cheese. I had seen the Barefoot Contessa make some recently. I love that woman!
There's nothing like the first time for many things. First day of school, first kiss, first love. Mac and cheese never tasted as heavenly as that first time at Tammy's house. This version with the lobster is all grown up and extremely decadent. It just may come in a close second.
Lobster Mac and Cheese
2009, Ina Garten, All Rights Reserved
* Kosher salt
* Vegetable oil
* 1 pound cavatappi or elbow macaroni
* 1 quart milk
* 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
* 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
* 12 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated (4 cups)
* 8 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (2 cups)
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
* 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
* 1 1/2 pounds cooked lobster meat
* 1 1/2 cups fresh white bread crumbs (5 slices, crusts removed)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the pasta and cook according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well.
Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don't boil it. In a large pot, melt 6 tablespoons of butter and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. Still whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, 1 tablespoon salt, the pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and lobster and stir well. Place the mixture in 6 to 8 individual gratin dishes.
Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, combine them with the fresh bread crumbs, and sprinkle on the top. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.
For the lobster, I put a steaming basket in a pot with an inch of water. When the water started to boil, I put in the tails and covered the pot. They steamed for about 5 minutes. I set them aside to cool. When they were manageable, I removed the lobster meat from the shell and cut it into large chunks. The rest of the dish I started an hour before dinner time. There were a few adjustments I made to Ina's recipe. I used two tablespoons of truffle butter (yes, I'm an addict) and four tablespoons of regular unsalted butter. I only had three cups of whole milk so the fourth cup was one percent. And instead of butter and fresh bread crumbs, I used plain panko breadcrumbs, no butter. Next time I will decrease the pasta cooking time by a minute so that the noodles are more al dente. Hope you enjoy this as much as we did.