I couldn't tell you how long I had waited and wanted to make this recipe.
Mac n Cheese has seen a boom in popularity that, based on absolutely no fact-based proof at all, feels to me to be a result of the explosion of popularity of BBQ restaurants in Ireland. It's not the BBQ restaurants themselves, per se, but rather our new found love of American Cuisine. I have long had my suspicions that American Food is not all Taco Bell and Wendy's. Since my first visit to the US in 2008, and two other trips subsequent, my suspicions that American food is one of the worlds most misunderstood cuisines have become a reality.
Although Mac n Cheese is English in origin (and classed as a casserole, baked as it is in the oven), but become imbedded in American food culture by former American President Thomas Jefferson in the 18th Century. It is probably now the most beloved of all American "comfort foods" and is subjected to many variations depending on where you live.
I grew up eating Macaroni Cheese. But not the American Style. I wrote a blog post about this a couple of years ago, along with the recipe for "My Mum's 'Not Very Macaroni Cheese' Macaroni Cheese" - I highly recommend you make this recipe by the way. Thankfully, it seems my Mum was way ahead of the curve in elevating the traditional "macaroni pasta and cheese sauce" to something more desirable and downright classy. This dishes' resurgence on restaurant and bistro menu's has provided the perfect (read : bland) canvas for chefs to become more experimental with this side dish and make it exciting once again.
This recipe has been a long time in the making. Between spending time understanding American food and how they get layer upon layer of flavour going into their dishes; reading and tasting I'm feeling pretty confident that this is not only the BEST Mac n Cheese recipe in the world (sorry Mum), but also the only one you'll want to make time again.
Yes, it contains lobster, but, unless you've not been paying close attention, the price of lobster has plummeted in the past couple of years reducing lobster status as only for the well-lined of pocket, and more accessible to Joe Soaps like you and me. Pairing this with sweetcorn is basically the only vegetable you need here. The secret to this is in the cheese sauce. Surprisingly though, this isn't a dish that will take you hours to prepare - especially if you buy a ready-cooked lobster. Take your time bashing the shell for two reasons: 1: you'll want to keep the head and legs intact; 2: it works better texturally if the body and the claws can come out whole.
Have fun, and trust me...you will ENJOY this one!
- 1 whole cooked lobster
- 1 white onion sliced
- pinch of whole black pepper corns
- 2 fresh bay leaves
- small bunch of fresh thyme
- smoked sea salt
- 1 tbsp salted butter
- 500ml best quality full fat milk (I suggest the beautiful Gloun Cross Dairy milk from Dunmanway, West Cork)
- 75g of strong cheddar, grated. I recommend Collea Cheese (50g for the sauce; 25g on top before grilling)
- 1 ball of fresh mozzarella, I recommend Macroom Mozzarella Company
- Smoked paprika
- Zest of 1 lemon; juice of 1/2 a lemon
- Handful of fresh coriander, finely chopped
- 1 whole fresh sweetcorn on the cob
- 250g dried macaroni pasta
- 1 tblsp of anchovy butter (bought or home made)
- Firmly but gently break open the cooked lobster. Take out the tail and the claws whole. Set aside the head and legs (shell on)
- Slice the white onion and add these to a heavy bottom medium sized pan. Add the black peppercorns, 2 fresh bay leaves, sprigs of thyme, smoked sea salt, the lobster head and legs and the milk. Poach everything very gently for about 10-15 mins. Watch it carefully to avoid boil over or burn.
- Strain the liquid into a bowl and discard the poaching ingredients.
- Put on a large pot of well salted water to boil.
- Stand the sweetcorn on a chopping board. Slice the sweetcorn off of the cob by using your knife to slice lengthways down the cob.
- When the water is boiling, add the macaroni pasta to it. After 5 mins add the sweetcorn kernels.
- In a small, heavy bottomed pan, add 1 tbsp of salted butter and allow to slowly melt. Add in a heaped tbsp. of plain flour. Cook the flour off in the butter using a wooden spoon and stirring constantly. Slowly start to add in the infused milk and stir with a mini hand whisk to ensure that all lumps are worked out. Leave to cook and thicken a little, stirring every now and again with a wooden spoon.
- Drain the macaroni and sweetcorn and set aside.
- Add 50g of the grated medium strong hard cheese and add this to the milk. Stir to melt and thicken further. Check for seasoning and adjust.
- Add in 2 tsp of smoked paprika, grate in the zest of a lemon and the juice of half a lemon. Add in most of the chopped coriander. Stir to combine and to thicken so it coats the back of the spoon very well indeed.
- Chop up the lobster tail into small bite-sized chunks. Not too small that the chunks of lobster will be lost in the dish, but then not too large that the pieces are then few and far between! Set aside.
- Place the drained pasta and sweetcorn back in the saucepan. Pour over the cheese sauce, then add in the chopped lobster. Stir to combine and then place in a deep, oven proof dish.
- Scatter the other 25g of grated cheese over the top and dot half a ball of mozzarella around the top. Scatter another small amount of paprika over the top. Place under a re ally hot grill until the cheese had melted and browned.
- Meanwhile, gentle rinse the lobster claws and drain on some kitchen towel.
- Melt some anchovy butter in a pan and gently add the dry lobster claws. Slowly and gently warm the claws through in the butter, basting as you go.
- Take the Mac n Cheese out from under the grill, and finish off with a final twist of black pepper, and scatter the remaining coriander. Place the two warmed through lobster claws on top.
- Serve with a slice of lemon and some fresh crusty bread. Eat immediately, and try to stop yourself from going back for seconds!