When it comes to cooking, I’m a creature of whim. I often ask Clayton what he wants for dinner, but unless he says something that *I* actually want, too, I rather flippantly dismiss it. Considering the quality of the items I generally produce, however, he has little room to complain. But today’s suggestion – in his simple terms, “a mac n’ cheese; you know, something warm” – actually did resonate with me, and my mind clicked into gear and rattled quickly through its catalog of flavors until settling quite quickly on a combination of lobster, and unctuousness, and crunch, and cream, and a dash of green. Hence: tonight’s silky sweet truffled macaroni and cheese, studded with tender poached lobster meat, and crispy on top with crumbled pancetta and bread crumbs and chives. And, since I could, I served it up in two searing hot iron skillets, which kept the sauce bubbling hot from bite one to bite last. As the days grow shorter and the air cooler outside here in New England, so does the appetite reach for comfort food that warms from within. This fit the bill just right.
Truffled Lobster Macaroni and Cheese with Panko, Pancetta, and Chive Crust
meat from 1 1/4lb lobster, just barely poached (about 1 cup)
6-8 slices thinly sliced pancetta
2 cups (uncooked) elbow macaroni
1 tbs butter
1/2 tsp minced garlic
2 cups cream
1/2 lb white American cheese
1 tbs white truffle pate
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup snipped chives
Poaching a lobster is easy: just chuck your bug in a large enough bowl or pan, then pour boiling water over it. Let it sit for a few minutes, then remove from the bath. Twist off the arms and claws, and chuck them back into the water while you remove the tail and leg meat with shears. Then cut the claws and arm meat out, setting all the sweet quivering pinkness into a bowl before throwing into the fridge until you’re ready for it.
After cooking the elbow noodles in a deep saucepan according to the package directions, return the drained pan to the heat, melt the butter, then add the cream and cheese – which can be cubed or shredded. A big fat helping of crushed black pepper is a good idea too. Whisk constantly, until the cheese is fully melted and the sauce is smooth and creamy.
I was given this little pot ‘o gold by a good friend for my birthday back in August, and I’ve had the pleasure of using it a few times. All one needs is a tablespoon of this super concentrated umame bliss to infuse any dish with the essence of truffle.
Add the drained, cooked noodles to the sauce, stir well. and then heap a spoonful of mushroom caviar into the mix and stir well some more. Fold in the the lobster meat, which should be cut into small bites, and split the pasta into two cast iron skillets. Crumble the pancetta over the top, the sprinkle the breadcrumbs over that, before smattering the dish with snipped chives and throwing in a 350° oven for 10 minutes.
Succulent, buttery lobster… rich, hearty truffle… creamy white percolating cheese sauce, and tender al dente noodles, encrusted with crisp unctuous Italian bacon, toasted crunchy breadcrumbs, and the sweet snap of snipped chives. Clayton didn’t expect anything this good when he thought about mac & cheese this morning, but he’s damn happy this is what he ended up tucking into tonight. He’s smiling sweetly right now, washing the dishes while I type, already nostalgic for the deliciousness that just filled his being with pasta and cheese. I’ve made lobster mac before, but this one, so far, has been my best.