Mom trades turkey for lobster
Hanukkah is upon us — can Christmas be far behind? It’s the last month of the year, when every week zips by faster than the one before. Like a freight train with no brakes, the days go by in a blur.
There’s baking and candy making to be done, lists to make and items to check off, invitations to send and answer. It’s time to send greetings to stay in touch with those you care about, both near and far away.
This year our family members are committed to finding one or two meaningful gifts for each other, rather than dribbling away gift money on a bunch of little space eaters that sit around and gather dust for another year.
Back in early November, Heather, Jenny and I got together to talk about our upcoming family holiday meals. Having thinned the ranks of turkeys by one large bird at Thanksgiving, we agreed the Christmas entrée should be something different.
The vote was unanimous for a reprise of Heather’s Lobster Mac and Cheese made from pasta shaped like a loose corkscrew (no elbow macaroni here), several over-the-top cheeses and the equivalent of three lobsters, it was eye-popping good last year. We’re looking for sales on lobsters, since the dish was also eye-popping expensive — but so worth it once a year.
Not everyone in my family is a seafood lover, and since my favorite neighborhood market has whole beef tenderloins on sale, roasted sliced tenderloin will be our alternative entrée.
Homemade potato rolls are a given — everyone wants them. Crostini de Segatino (slices of French baguette with liver pate) is also on the menu — not for everyone, but I love it.
Since the to-die-for Lobster Mac and Cheese is a spectacular dish on its own, it’s something you might want to serve for a dinner party between now and the end of the year (or, looking ahead, perhaps for New Year’s Eve. All it needs for accompaniment is a crisp green salad and a loaf of warm, crusty bread, with something light and lemony for dessert. The casserole can be made ahead and finished just before serving.
MAC AND CHEESE
3 3 1/2 pounds cooked lobster (meat plus shell weight)
4 cups cooked al dente Fusille pasta (heavy, loose corkscrews — not rotini)
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups Fontina cheese
3/4 to 1 cup sharp white cheddar cheese
1/2 cup gruyere cheese
3/4 cup Mascarpone cheese
3/4 cup whole milk or half-and-half
1 cup Panko crumbs
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
Cook the lobster meat and the pasta. Chill.
Remember as you are building the cheese sauce respect the lobster. Don’t use any ingredient or amount of ingredients that will overpower the flavor of the lobster.
In a large skillet, make a roux from the 4 tablespoons butter and 4 tablespoons flour. Add milk or cream. Melt Fontina cheese slowly into the roux, followed by the cheddar, gruyere and mascarpone cheeses and just a dash of nutmeg.
Cool the sauce. Remove lobster and pasta from the refrigerator and allow them to come to room temperature.
Grease a 12-cup oven-proof casserole dish. In a large bowl, gently mix the pasta and the cheese sauce. Pour into the casserole. Cut lobster into bite-size pieces and poke evenly into the pasta mixture until it is all used.
Mix panko crumbs and Parmesan cheese. Cover top of casserole evenly, then dot with butter.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place casserole in a larger pan and add water to come half way up the outside of the casserole. Bake for 30-45 minutes, or just until top is browned and contents are hot (remember, everything is cooked before it is mixed).
Serves eight to 10.