“Lobster” Mac and Cheese

Macaroni and cheese. Do you know anyone who doesn’t like it? Anyone who can pass on this ultimate comfort food? It’s my favorite dish at Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner and my favorite cheat food. Why? I dunno. It must be the cheeeeeeese, particularly the extra sharp cheddar!!! If I only use one cheese, that must be it. I like my mac and cheese to have a sharp bite. It’s gotten to the point where I will not order it if I am not 100% sure sharp or extra sharp cheddar is in the mix. Don’t ask why. It’s just what it is!

So, we the world just recently celebrated Valentine’s Day. My beau and I aren’t really big on celebrating, but I did take the time to plan a delicious comfort meal paired with my favorite Australian Cab, the Little Penguin. It was really cold in New York City over the weekend, and I personally had no interest in braving the cold weather just to get dressed up and go to an overpriced restaurant. Not knocking anyone who did or does every year, but it’s just not our thing! In any event, I decided on “lobster” mac and cheese, juicy sirloin steak and roasted asparagus.

You might be wondering why the lobster is enclosed by quotes. That’s because I opted for the less expensive substitute, langostino because… budget. Yes, folks… I have placed myself on a strict budget and since I am the primary purchaser of groceries, I tried my best to stay as close to budget as possible. So that meant I couldn’t splurge for the filet mignon I really wanted, and opted for the sirloin instead. No shame in my game, especially when I get to save money via apps like DIGIT!!! En-ee-wayz… langostino is a suitable substitute for lobster in that it has a similar taste and consistency. The actual langostino looks like a prawn’s cousin. And, the best part is that Trader Joe’s carries a 1-lb. package of frozen, clean, cooked and peeled langostino for $11.99.  Typically, lobster mac and cheese, or in this case, langostino mac and cheese is a meal all in itself. Paired with a simple salad, you’ve got a full meal of carbs, protein and vegetables. This dish is super easy to make and I certainly would never suggest eating it regularly. It’s the perfect cheat meal! But, it was Valentine’s Day and I was feeling generous! Makes 4 to 6 servings.

INGREDIENTS

2 tbsp. olive oil

8 oz. or 1/2 package fusilli, cavatappi or elbow macaroni (I used gluten-free fusilli)

1 stick of butter, divided

1/4 c. or 4 tbsp. all-purpose flour

1 c. evaporated milk

1 c. fat-free half and half

1 c. shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese

1/2 c. shredded Gouda or Gruyere cheese

1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 to 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

1 c. plain white breadcrumbs

To taste: salt, fresh ground black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika

1-1/2 lbs. cooked langostino or lobster meat, 1/2″ to 1″ chopped

 

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Add the oil to a large pot of boiling salted water, add the pasta and cook al dente according to the directions on the package. Drain well.

3. If the langostino or lobster you have is not cooked, season with a bit of salt and pepper, melt about 2-3 tbsp. of butter on medium heat, and saute just long enough, 1-2 min. just so the meat turns pink. DO NOT OVERCOOK. It doesn’t have to cook all the way through since you will be putting it into the oven anyway. Note: If the langostino or lobster is already cooked, you can prepare it the same way, but toss around in the melted butter for 30 sec. or less just to add the buttery flavor.

4. In a large pot, make a roux by melting 4-5 tablespoons of the butter and whisking in the flour a tablespoon at a time. Cook over low heat and continue to whisk constantly. Add the milk and half & half and continue to whisk until the white sauce thickens and becomes smooth.

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5. Stir in all cheeses and season with spices to taste. Salt, pepper and nutmeg will suffice, but I like adding the other spices as well. Continue to stir until the cheese melts, then add cooked pasta and lobster. Combine well and transfer mixture into a baking dish.

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6. In a small skillet, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, combine with the bread crumbs and sprinkle on top. You may not want to use as many breadcrumbs as I did, so you can lessen the amount to 1/2 or 3/4 c. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly and the pasta is browned on top.

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