Even I am guilty of not eating mac n' cheese that often because I always associated it with the bright orange Kraft brand that I ate as a kid. Not that there is anything wrong with that (it can be quite addicting), but I just wanted something different. And then I had mac n' cheese at a family dinner a few years back, and my viewpoint changed forever!
Once I took a bite of that homemade mac n' cheese, the wheels in my head starting turning with all the ways in which I could recreate the dish and create several others! That really is the beauty of mac n' cheese - it is so versatile that you can have fun with it and add any cheese you like, pasta brand you prefer, and any other special ingredients like chicken, spinach, and even seafood. Yes, seafood!
Since I am a proud New Englander, I LOVE lobster (I mean, I kind of have to), so I thought, why not add it to my mac n' cheese? Well, I'm glad I did! It may sound odd to some, but give this a try, and you will enjoy!
New England Mac n' Cheese
-1 pound penne or elbow pasta (I used whole wheat)
-1 pound fresh lobster, chopped up (you can buy it like this from the fish counter to save time)
-1/2 pound baby shrimp (optional - you can add more if you have less lobster or if it is not fresh in your market)
-4 tablespoons butter, plus 2 tablespoons
-1 onion, chopped
-1 clove of garlic, minced
-1/4 cup flour
-1/4 cup dry white wine (or your favorite white)
-2 cups heavy cream
-1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
-2 cups white cheddar cheese, shredded
-2 cups Gruyere cheese, shredded
-1/4 cup bread crumbs (preferably Panko bread crumbs)
-Salt and pepper to taste
-Freshly chopped parsley for sprinkling
-Optional: White truffle oil (a few drops if you have it - not needed otherwise)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Bring a pot of water to a boil, add a little salt and the pasta. Cook for about 8 minutes, or until the pasta is al dente. Reserve one cup of the pasta water before draining. Set pasta aside in a large bowl or you can place in a casserole dish. Just keep in mind that you will be stirring in other ingredients, so you want the room to stir.
Meanwhile, in another saucepan, melt the 4 tablespoons of butter. Add the onion, garlic, salt and pepper to taste, and saute for a couple of minutes. Add the flour and cook for an additional two minutes. The onions will clump together a bit with the flour, but that is okay. Whisk in the wine and let it reduce by almost half. Once the wine has reduced, whisk in the heavy cream and nutmeg and cook for about 5 - 10 more minutes, or until the mixture thickens.
Once the cream mixture has thickened, remove from the heat and stir in a couple drops of truffle oil if using. Pour the cream mixture over the pasta. Then, fold in the cheeses and seafood. If the mixture is too thick for your liking, you can add a little of the reserved pasta water to help loosen it up.
Transfer all of the pasta into a casserole dish and sprinkle the top with the bread crumbs and parsley. Melt the reserved two tablespoons of butter and drizzle it over the top of the bread crumbs. Place the casserole dish in the oven and cook for about 15 - 20 minutes, or until the top starts to become a golden brown and the cheese is bubbling.
I hope you enjoy this New England twist on a classic comfort food!
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