There is this general rule that cheese and seafood don’t go well together, but mac and cheese seems to be a way to defy that rule. And you want to talk about indulgent put the classic macaroni and cheese comfort food with decadent, buttery lobster and you can’t go wrong.
I have had lobster mac and cheese at various places, but there is this restaurant in Charlotte, NC called Mimosa Grill where I’ve had it a couple times. The first time I was traveling by myself and not really feeling like dining out so on the recommendation of a friend grabbed this on my way back to the hotel. Let me tell you, Southerners really know their mac and cheese.
I wasn’t really trying to copy the Mimosa lobster mac in this recipe but as it is the best I’ve tried, it was definitely my inspiration. I wanted a mac sauce that was cheesy but with cheese that wasn’t too overwhelmingly powerful that the lobster was lost and I wanted a little spice too – enter sriracha breadcrumb topping. And finally, I opted for lobster tails which are a bit more weeknight friendly and less intimidating than cooking a whole lobster – just for mac and cheese.
Oh and yes, you’ll notice – I’m finally cooking in the new kitchen! We’re still working on ‘moving in’ and I’ll post some pictures once we’re all settled.
Here’s what you need:
Note: This recipe for mac and cheese will feed 4 to 6 people, with one lobster tail a piece. Because I didn’t want rubbery, leftover, microwaved lobster I only made enough lobster for us to eat on day 1. Feel free to cut the mac down if you only want to feed a couple people with no leftovers (a half recipe will feed 2 or 3), or make more lobster if you’re feeding a bigger crowd.
I started by making the breadcrumb topping because it was going to go into the oven later and it was ok if the topping cooled down.
In a small skillet over medium-low heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Add in ¾ c of panko and stir until they just start to brown. At this point drizzle the breadcrumbs with some sriracha. You’re going to stir that in and continue browning for a little longer so you want to add it before the breadcrumbs get too brown. Mix in and taste for preferred level of spiciness – remembering this will be added to mac and cheese which will temper the heat.
Remove to a plate or bowl to until ready to top the mac.
Now it’s time to prep the lobster. I chose to broil mine. I am certainly not a lobster expert and chose to google several methods and then also used my trusty Themopen (the link is to Amazon because I love their wishlist feature, but you can find it cheaper directly on the Thermoworks website) to make sure it didn’t get above 145. Choose whatever method you want – just don’t overcook it.
If you go the broiling route like me. Preheat your broiler and cover a sheetpan with food.
Using kitchen shears cut down the center of the top side of the tail but not quite through the end.
Now use your hands and pry the edges of the shell apart and remove the digestive tract (just like deveining a shrimp). Then gently loosen the tail meat from the claw and carefully pull the meat up and rest it on the shell – leaving the tail piece connected.
Brush it with melted butter.
Broil 5 inches from the heat source for 4-5 minutes. Check the temperature and continue cooking until reaches 145 in 1-2 minute increments. I needed another 2 minutes.
Remove the lobster from the oven. Gently pull the meat from the tail. Chop into one half to one third inch – basically bitesize – pieces.
While the lobster is broiling you want to cook your pasta according to package directions for al dente.
You also want to make your mac sauce.
Melt a stick of butter over medium to medium low heat and add in a clove of garlic that you grated on a microplane. Allow to cook for 1-2 minutes. Note: the garlic is optional but I wanted another flavor in the background that wouldn’t take over. Then whisk in a quarter cup of flour. Allow the butter and flour to cook for 1-2 minutes and season generously with fresh ground pepper and a couple pinches of salt. You can also sprinkle in a little dry mustard – I often do when I make a cheese sauce but didn’t tonight.
Slowly whisk in two and a half cups of milk – I used 2%. Bring the milk up to a bubble.
Reduce for about 3-4 minutes, until it’s thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Then stir in the cheese. I used a combination of medium cheddar (I intended to grab sharp but messed up at the store and since it was Friday and I not only needed to make this for the blog but I needed a meatless meal too, I just went with it) and gruyere cheeses – which is also what they use at Mimosa, and seems to be the predominate combination if you google lobster mac too.
Taste the cheese sauce and decide if you want to tweak it at all.
Pour over the drained pasta and stir together.
Now you have mac and cheese – which is plenty good on its own – and we’re going to transform it into lobster mac. If you remember from the beginning I made extra mac and cheese, so I’m not going to dump the lobster into the mac. Instead I put the mac into individual dishes that I use for French onion soup and stirred in the chopped meat from one lobster tail to each dish. If you make this for your whole family feel free to stir the lobster into the mac and pour it into a casserole dish.
Now, remember those sriracha breadcrumbs we made? Sprinkle those generously on top. In the beginning we made enough for about 4-6 servings so you won’t use it all feeding two. Unless you really like crunchy topping.
Bake in a 425 degree oven for about 7-8 minutes until the breadcrumbs are golden and the cheese is bubby. If you make a big dish for your whole family it will probably take 15-20 minutes, keep an eye on it.
Now here is the hard part. Wait. About 5 minutes, it will be mouth burning hot. As in burned the roof of your mouth on hot pizza, hot. Then dig in.
- 2 T butter
- ¾ c panko
- 1-2 t sriracha
- 1 lobster tail per person
- 2 T butter, melted
- 1 lb cavatappi
- 1 garlic clove, grated
- ½ stick butter
- ¼ c flour
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 2.5 c milk
- 6 oz gruyere, shredded
- 8 oz sharp cheddar, shredded
- In a small skillet, melt the first 2 T of butter over medium low heat. Stir in the breadcrumbs and cook stirring occasionally until they begin to brown – 1-2 minutes. Drizzle on some sriracha and continue cooking until as brown as you like them. Remove to a bowl.
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain.
- Preheat broiler for the lobster.
- Cook according to your favorite method or broil. Cut along the top of the shell. Pull shell apart and remove the vein (digestive tract). Gently loosen the tail from the shell keeping the end closest to the tailfins attached. Pull meat out and set on top of the tail. Basted with the melted butter. Broil 5 inches from the heat source for 4 minutes. Check temperature and continue broiling a couple minutes at a time until it reaches 145 degrees.
- Remove lobster meat from the shell. Chop into small pieces and set aside.
- After lobster comes out of the oven. Turn off the broiler and preheat to 425 degrees.
- Meanwhile make the cheese sauce. In a saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the half stick of butter. Add flour and cook for 1-2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Slowly whisk in the milk. Turn heat up to medium and bring to a bubble. Cook until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
- Stir the cheese into the sauce.
- Pour over pasta and mix together.
- Spoon pasta into individual baking dishes. Stir in the meat of one lobster tail to each dish. Top with breadcrumbs.
- Bake for 8 minutes until breadcrumbs brown and the cheese is hot and bubbly.