Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Mindblowing Lobster "Mac & Cheese"

Shells and vegetables after straining stock
lobster sauce thickened with heavy cream. try not to drink it.
lobster finishing it's cooking process in beurre monte

Ok, so who doesn't love macaroni and cheese? I don't think there's a bad way to make it, but since this is Gour-maybe, we are making blend of a traditional mac and cheese and a Thomas Keller mac and cheese interpretation. Let's start by saying it involves lobster. That you cook. In butter. Let's also say that the sauce base is so good, so lobstery (a word that should be invented just to describe this dish) we were eating it with spoons before forcing myself to keep cooking at stop eating. How did this recipe come about? My boyfriend is a traditional guy and loves mac and cheese, and as this was his birthday side, I thought I would try not to push it by making something too abstract. So I set out to make Keller's recipe a little less Keller and a little more me. I used shells instead of orzo, added additional white cheddar, chives and breadcrumbs, and spiced it up with a little bit of cayenne. I would never be so crazy as to say it's BETTER because I don't think you can do better than The French Laundry, but I will tell you that if you love lobster, cheese, butter and awesome sides, this is going to be tough to beat.

Lobster Mac & Cheese - adapted from Thomas Keller's Butter-Poached Maine Lobster with Creamy Lobster Broth and Mascarpone-Enriched Orzo from The French Laundry cookbook. (Serves 4)
You will need:
  • 2 live lobsters, 1.5 lbs each 
  • 1/4 C T white vinegar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 T kosher salt
  • 1 T black peppercorns
  • 3 leeks - white parts only, cut crosswise in half inch slices
  • 1 1/2 C chopped cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tsp rosemary leaves (not chopped)
  • 1 russet potato - rough chop
  • 2 1/2 C small shell pasta (you could use really any pasta)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 2 T mascarpone cheese
  • 1/2 C grated white cheddar cheese
  • 4 slices sourdough bread, toasted, buttered and processed into breadcrumbs
  • 2 C heavy cream
  • 1/2 lb unsalted butter
  • 2 T chives, minced
  • 2 T water
  • 1/2 lb unsalted butter

Fill a large stockpot with enough water to cover one lobster at a time. Bring water to a boil. Add the white vinegar and salt. Add the lobster and boil for 2.5 minutes for a 1.5 lb lobster. Remove and set aside. Repeat for the second lobster. Let the lobsters cool for about 15 minutes.  Handling them carefully *i like to use a dishtowel* remove tail by twisting, as well as the front "arms" which would be the arms with the large claws. Twist them off at the body, so you have the knuckles as well. Add the four "arms" back to the boiling water and cook for 3.5 minutes more. Remove and set aside.
Now, it's time to get all the meat out. To easily remove the partially cooked tails, I use kitchen shears to cut the back of the tail shell in half. Save all shells for the next step. I also use kitchen shears and if necessary a mallet to remove the claw meat and knuckle meat. This meat will be a little more done, but should be just under done, because you will finish it in the butter at the end. It's important for the final look of the dish to keep the claws in one peice, but if you happen to crush one, don't worry! It can be chopped and added to the mac and cheese mixture Refrigerate all the lobster until ready to use. If all of this is confusing and you've never done a lobster before, please check out the awesome YouTube tutorial.

Clean all the shells, removing all remaining meat and innards. In a large stockpot, heat oil over medium-high heat and sear lobster shells for 1 or 2 minutes, or until they turn brightest red. Add tomatoes, leeks, and potatoes, peppercorns, salt and rosemary. Cover shells and vegetables with water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium/medium low, and simmer for about 1 hour. Use a large spoon to remove any impurities that might float to the surface. Strain stock through a fine sieve into a medium saucepan. Discard the solids. Simmer the stock on medium heat until it has reduced to 1 cup. This takes about 1.5 - 2 hours. Add the heavy cream and continue to simmer until it thickens to a very thick sauce. Season to taste with the salt, pepper and cayenne. The mixture should be reduced to about 1 cup. Pour into a container. You can actually do this in advance, and keep it in the refrigerator for 2 days. Either way, cover the container and chill while you finish the dish.

Toast bread slices, and butter lightly. Set aside until cool, then crush with a rolling pin or puree in the food processor. You want toasted buttered breadcrumbs. You could even buy them and stir in melted butter.

Remove lobster from the fridge prior to making the pasta, so it can come to room temp.
Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan and add shells. Cook until al dente. Drain. Slowly stir in lobster sauce into the warm shells in 3 additions. Let mixture stand 15 minutes to absorb the sauce after each addition. You might not use all the sauce. I like mine to be thicker and more pasta to sauce than the reverse. Pour mixture back into saucepan and add mascarpone cheese and cheddar cheese. Stir over low heat until melted, Adjust seasoning if necessary for a final taste. Chop knuckle meat and add to the mixture. Stir in chives and toasted breadcrumbs and set aside.

Finally, finish the lobster. This is a little tricky, but not too bad! You have to make a "beurre monte" which is a fancy way to say water and butter whipped together. In a small saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add  the first two tablespoons of butter, 1 T at a time, whisking vigorously. Reduce heat to low or medium low, and add the remaining butter 1 T at a time until all is added. You want the mixture to be light in color and thick. The mixture needs to stay at about 175 degrees, so have a thermometer handy. Add the lobster tails and claws. Cook claws for about 2 more minutes, and tails for about 5-6 or until opaque. Flip the pieces if necessary so that each side can be submerged in the butter.

To serve, slice each tail in medallions, and stir gently into the shells. Leave a few on top for garnish. Arrange whole claws on top, and sprinkle a few more chives as a final touch. 

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