This particular version of mac & cheese sans lobster is one of Miss Party’s signature dishes, she’s often requested to make it (often by adults). Adults love the gourmet treatment of a favorite comfort food; kids just love mac & cheese…it always works. Adding sweet lump lobster meat to this humble side dish pushes it into the ‘special entree’ category–It’s creamy and delicious, memorable and unique for a special occasion and soooo yummy!!
The nice thing about serving this dish for a dinner party: It can be 75% assembled earlier in the day, then finished with the tomatoes and bread crumb topping just before baking; and, other than a salad or appetizer, it is a one-dish meal that can be put into bake as guests arrive. The challenging thing about preparing the casserole is you might feel like you’re using every bowl and pot in your kitchen to make it (but since you’re preparing it well before guests arrive, there’s no issue with having clean-up-time).
Obviously, Lobster Mac & Cheese, is an extravagant version of an old-fashioned starch side dish. If you would like to prepare this recipe as a side for an entree, simply omit the lobster meat. A lesser expensive but very tasty alternative to lobster would be lump crabmeat.
Serve 6-8, in a 3 quart casserole dish
1 lb. cooked lump lobster meat, cut into small chunks (lump crabmeat would also work nicely)
1 Tblsp. vegetable oil
1 pound box of large corkscrew-shaped pasta such as Cavatappi, Cellentani or, of course, large elbow macaroni
1 quart 2% or whole milk (don’t use skim milk)
1 stick unsalted butter (5-6 Tblsp. used in white sauce; 2 Tblsp. used with bread crumb topping)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 1/2 cups Gruyere cheese, shredded (around 14 oz. or 2 8 oz. pre-packaged wedges)
2 cups extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded (1 16 oz. pkg of pre-shredded cheese)
Kosher salt (1 tsp. for pasta water; 1 tsp. for white sauce)
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
3-4 small tomatoes, sliced
5 slices fresh white bread, crusts removed and made into crumbs
1/2 cup unseasoned dried bread crumbs (pre-packaged)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Casserole Base Layer:
1) In a large pot of boiling water, add 1 tsp. salt and drizzle 1 Tblsp. vegetable oil. Cook pasta until al dente (firm), about 7-8 minutes, stir once or twice during cooking time to prevent sticking. Drain well and return to cooking pot.
2) While pasta is cooking, shred the Gruyere cheese and slice your tomatoes (bag and refrigerate).
3) Heat milk in a small saucepan (don’t let it boil).
4) Melt 5-6 Tblsp. butter in a medium pot. Whisk in flour a little at a time. Whisk while cooking for a couple of minutes.
5) Begin adding the hot milk to the butter a 1/2 cup or so at a time, continuously whisking until smooth and begins to thicken. Continue cooking for a couple more minutes. Turn off heat.
6 To the white sauce, add: Gruyere cheese, Cheddar cheese, 1 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper and nutmeg. Stir for a couple of minutes while cheese melts into the sauce.
7) Pour the white sauce over the cooked pasta and stir well to combine. Pour half the pasta mixture into your casserole dish.
8) Evenly distribute a layer of the lump lobster meat pieces. Add a second layer of the rest of the pasta mixture on top. Cover and refrigerate to finish and bake later.
Breadcrumb Topping (can be made ahead and bagged separately until baking time):
1) Melt remaining 2 Tblsp. of butter. Use your hands to combine butter, fresh breadcrumbs and dried breadcrumbs. Mix well and bag for later use.
Final Casserole Assembly:
1) Evenly distribute a layer of tomato slices across the casserole dish. Use freshly ground pepper across the tomato slices.
2) Evenly distribute the buttered breadcrumbs across the entire top of tomatoes and pasta.
3) Bake the pre-refrigerated casserole for 40-50 minutes or until beginning to brown in places on the top.
Note: If you want to completely prepare the casserole and bake immediately, reduce your cooking time to 30-35 minutes.
Credits: Miss Party’s Lobster Mac & Cheese recipe has been adapted from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa – Family Style Cookbook.