Living at home has its perks and drawbacks, for sure. There’s not much privacy or personal space, but it’s a price I’m willing to pay in exchange for not paying rent! Not to mention that my dad is a fantastic cook, which means I never have to worry about cooking for myself once I get home from work!
But this week, mom and dad are off cruising the Caribbean for mom’s retirement celebration, while I’m left at home to work and house-sit. I can’t pretend I’m not wishing I was sitting on a Caribbean beach right now, but being home does give me a great opportunity to cook for myself. So I took advantage of my free time this Saturday to try out a new recipe!
I usually just scroll through my Pinterest posts until I find something that sticks out at me. This week, that was Baked Lobster Mac and Cheese, by Jacqui over at Dishing Delicious.
Mac and cheese is a huge comfort food for me, and I thought this decadent recipe would be perfect for a cozy night of sipping wine and watching TV. So, off to the store!
Road block number 1: I couldn’t find lobster at the grocery store! Well, too late to turn back now. And since I definitely wasn’t committed enough to buy whole lobsters from the seafood counter, fresh lump crab meat seemed like a good alternative. I also went all out in the cheese section. I could have gotten the same cheeses for half the price over in the bagged, pre-shredded section. But I think that an over-the-top indulgent recipe like this deserves the expensive, fresh grated cheese!
Since I dined alone, I cut the original recipe in half. I also happened to have 8 ounces of elbow pasta on hand, so I substituted them for the spirals the original recipe called for. Plus, elbows give it that classic mac and cheese feel! Also, the recipe called for a “dry white wine” and since I know nothing about wine, I used the already open Sauvignon Blanc I had in the fridge. As it turns out, Sauvignon Blanc does qualify as “dry,” so I guess I got lucky! One other note on the ingredients: the original recipe does not specify which type of milk would work best. I bought whole, because it was on sale and from our local creamery. I’m sure this recipe will work fine with any type of milk you choose to use!
Time to get cooking!
First, preheat your oven to 375° F. I always preheat my oven for at least 20 minutes, just to make sure it’s up to temperature. Get out your baking dish(es) and grease them with butter or a nonstick cooking spray. The original recipe used a 3 quart baking dish, but because I halved the recipe and was feeling fancy, I used four small, single-serve dishes. You could also use ramekins, or a square baking dish. I also recommend chopping your green and yellow onions and grating your cheeses at this step. Or if you bought pre-grated cheese, then you just saved yourself having to wash the cheese grater!
Cook your pasta according to package directions, but make sure you salt your pasta water! Once it’s cooked, drain and set aside.
Now its time to make the cheese sauce. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the ½ sweet yellow onion and the garlic clove, and cook until the onion becomes translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add in the white wine and cook for another minute. Next, add the flour and whisk until a paste-like substance is formed. This step won’t take long!
Begin adding the milk slowly while whisking the mixture. Once all the milk has been added, continue whisking until there are no more lumps of the flour “paste” left. Increase the heat and bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer until the sauce begins to thicken. This will take about 1-2 minutes.
Add in all of your grated cheese (I used a little extra of each…but don’t tell that to my calorie counter software!) Continue whisking the mixture until all of the cheese is melted. Then, remove the pan from the heat (I recommend removing it from the burner, not just turning the burner off) and stir in the Dijon mustard, pepper, salt, nutmeg, and chives. The original recipe also calls for ¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper, but I omitted this ingredient just because I have absolutely no tolerance for spice. But if you like spice, I recommend using 1/8 to ¼ teaspoon. Mix everything together until combined, then add in the crab (or lobster!) and the cooked pasta.
Mix well, then spoon or pour the mixture into the baking dishes. Now use a small pot (or rinse the one you just emptied) to melt one tablespoon of butter. Once melted, remove from heat and add breadcrumbs. Once the mixture has come together, spread on top of the mac and cheese evenly.
Bake uncovered at 375° F for 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of your baking dishes. My small dishes were done in 30 minutes, but a smaller or deeper pan may need the full 40 minutes. When the bread crumbs are golden brown and the sauce is bubbling, it’s usually a pretty good sign that you’re ready to eat!
Once removed from the oven, let cool for a bit before digging in. I recommend garnishing with fresh chives and a sprinkle of extra cheese!
Pro Tip: I had some leftovers of this for dinner the next night, and enjoyed it more than when I was fresh from the oven. Maybe this is just one of those recipes that develops more flavor the longer it sits, or maybe my palate is just strange. It’s a 50/50 shot, really.
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I did! Overall, I give it a 4 star rating, only because it was quite expensive to make. But the flavors were definitely in the all-star crowd. Try it out sometime, and let me know how it turns out!
- 8 ounces elbow pasta
- 8 ounces lump crab meat, cooked and coursely chopped
- 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
- ½ medium sweet yellow onion
- 1½ cups whole milk
- 1 cup traditional bread crumbs
- ¾ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- ¾ cup shredded Gruyere cheese
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup fresh chives, finely chopped
- ⅛ cup all purpose flour
- ⅛ cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ½ Tbsp Dijon mustard
- ⅛ tsp nutmeg
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 375° F. Grease baking dishes using butter or non-stick cooking spray. Use a single 1.5 Quart dish, or use smaller ramekins for single-serve portions.
- Salt pasta water and bring to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions, then drain and set aside. While the pasta cooks, grate the cheeses (if necessary) and finely dice the chives.
- Melt 2 Tbsp of butter in a large skillet. Add onion and garlic, and cook on medium heat until onion is translucent, about 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the white wine and cook for an additional minute.
- Add flour and whisk the mixture until a paste is formed, about 30 seconds.
- Begin slowly adding the milk while continually whisking. Once the milk has been added, continue whisking the sauce until smooth. Reduce the heat and simmer until the sauce begins to thicken, about 1-2 minutes.
- Add the grated cheese and whisk together until all the cheese has melted. Remove the pan from the heat, and add in the remaining ingredients (dijon, nutmeg, salt, pepper, and chives).
- Once all ingredients have been incorporated, fold in crab meat and cooked pasta. Then, spoon into baking dishes.
- Using a small pot, melt the remaining one tablespoon of butter. Remove from heat, then mix in the breadcrumbs. Spoon over mac and cheese and coat evenly.
- Bake uncovered at 375° F for 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of your baking dishes. Look for the bread crumbs turning golden brown and the sauce bubbling. Remove from oven, let cool slightly before digging in.