This one feels vaguely out of season, but we’ve been traveling on the weekends to weddings and fake college reunions so I haven’t had much time in the kitchen. I had a choice between using photos from recent meals I haven’t written about or potentially ruining half of tonight’s grilled pizza with a combination of canned goose pate and grape balsamic reduction. Went with the former, though I need to give that pizza a shot at some point when dinner doesn’t depend on it.
After a trip to Maine this summer we headed home with the usual 6 lobsters, for the absurdly low price of $20, that we planned to steam and shell for use in various meals throughout the week.
A portion of this meat will always have to be designated to a few lobster rolls on Maier’s Potato Rolls…
I love me a good lobster roll, but the majority needed to be saved for the meal I’ve always loved the concept of but has never lived up to my lofty expectations; Lobster Mac & Cheese. I haven’t sought out or done research on where to find good Lobster Mac (today’s ‘breve), but invariably the ones I’ve tried have been a little bland and lacking the lobster flavor I was looking for. Needless to say, I had some ideas for how to improve on that and babbled about them to anyone that would listen. Time to put them to the test.
I got started by making a broth with the lobster shells and some aromatics. Someone needs to explain to me why this always ends up green in color when I expect it to be pink.
Each time I’ve made lobster broth, it ends up smelling strongly of lobster but mostly just tastes like a standard fish stock. I reserved some of the broth for the cheese sauce, but most of it was earmarked for cooking the macaroni.
The macaroni boiled in the lobster broth for a little over half of the normal cook time before being strained and set to the side. I kind of expected it to pick up some of the green coloring from the broth, but of course it didn’t. Just like everything else I expect to happen in the kitchen.
With the pasta cooked and the lobster meat ready, it was time to get started on the cheese sauce. To add some flavor to the dish and the sauce, I started off by cubing a quarter pound of duck prosciutto for browning.
The duck prosciutto went into a couple tablespoons of butter to sautee for a few minutes on the stovetop. Once the prosciutto had browned a bit, it joined the cooked macaroni and chopped lobster in a bowl.
With the leftover melted butter and duck fat still on the stove, I whisked in 2-3 tablespoons of flour and let it cook on the stovetop for a 10 minutes. I was carefully to stir it regularly to avoid burning, but I certainly don’t mind a nice brown roux.
At this point the standard cheese sauce process started; add some milk (plus a little of the broth) then some shredded cheese, then some milk, and so on until you have enough cheese sauce of the right consistency. I am not going to attempt to explain what that means because I would do so awfully and no one comes here to learn.
I went with straight sharp cheddar for this one, but I knew the secret weapon in this sauce had nothing to do with the cheese and milk, it had to do with this:
That’s right, when dismantling the lobster bodies I saved the tomalley (lobster offal) and roe in this little container for questionable future use. It looks gross, and there have been warnings about possible pollutants from the ocean bottom being concentrated in it, but the flavor of it is rich and lobstery. Perfect for spiking the flavor of the cheese sauce with the lobster note it was missing, so in it went.
The majority of this pot got stirred in with the other ingredients in a large(r) bowl before going into a Pyrex dish that by some stroke of luck held it perfectly.
After a dusting with some breadcrumbs and grated parm, the dish headed into a 375 oven for about 20 minutes until the cheese was bubbling and the top was browned. Served it while it was hot with some token vegetables to make us feel like we were doing something healthy.
Between the pasta cooked in lobster broth and the lobster bits in the cheese sauce, I had accomplished my goal of making something that didn’t just taste like mac and cheese with lobster chunks. It tasted like lobster mac and cheese. The cheese sauce had the slightly seafoody sweetness of lobster mixed with rich cheese flavor. Every chunk of lobster was a great bite and the contrasting crispy pieces of prosciutto were a nice change of pace. I kinda blew it by not using all of the sauce but, I learned a lesson, and will likely do it right next time. Then I will make the same mistake again the following time.
Before I wrap up, a quick shout out to occasional blog villain Matt, his wife Wendy and their adorable daughter Sage who has fought mightily through her first four months of life. Sage underwent a liver transplant yesterday morning at Children’s Hospital in Boston and could use the positive thoughts and hope of everyone who reads this blog as she recovers. Our thoughts and prayers are with the little Swaddled Warrior, and I hope yours will be too.