Maybe the ultimate Southern comfort food dish.
Macaroni and cheese isn’t difficult to make, but if you’re planning to add something as tasty as Florida lobster meat to the mix, spend a few bucks and buy some real butter and better-than-average cheeses. Adding seafood to the recipe does complicate it somewhat, as the casserole requires thorough baking, a technique that if not watched carefully can turn delicate lobster flesh into rubber. My recommendation is to broil or grill the lobster separately, and then serve bite-sized chunks of meat over the cooked mix at the table. That way, the lobster meat is tender and the edges of the mac ‘n cheese are crispy and crunchy, as both should be.
August isn’t just about lobsters. Florida’s recreational bay scallop season is in full swing on the Big Bend. And scallops, another delicate treat from the sea, work well with macaroni and cheese. Just a quick sear in a hot skillet coated with the slightest bit of cooking oil is all you need to do to make them the perfect partner for this special meal.
Seafood Mac and Cheese
- ½ lb. thick-sliced bacon or pancetta
- Vegetable oil
- Kosher salt
- 1 16 oz. box elbow macaroni
- 3 cups whole milk
- 4 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 4 tbsp. all-purpose flour
- ½ lb. Gruyere cheese, grated
- ½ lb. extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated
- 4 oz. parmesan cheese, grated
- ½ tsp. ground black pepper
- Pinch of freshly-ground nutmeg
- 4 slices stale white sandwich bread
- 4 tbsp. chopped basil leaves
- Meat from 4 Florida lobster tails, grilled or broiled, and cut into bite-sized chunks
- 1 pint of freshly-shucked bay scallop meat, lightly seared
Arrange the bacon or pancetta on a baking rack and cook in oven at 350 degrees until crispy. Drain, pat dry, and crumble.
Drizzle some vegetable oil in a pot of salted water and cook macaroni until tender.
Heat (don’t boil!) the milk in a saucepan. Melt butter in a medium pot and add flour. Cook over medium heat for about 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook the mix until thick and smooth. Remove from heat and add cheeses, 1 tsp. salt, pepper and nutmeg. Then add the bacon and macaroni, and stir well. Pour into a shallow baking or soufflé dish.
Put the bread slices into a food processor and pulse into coarse crumbs. Add the basil and pulse to combine. Sprinkle the crumbs over the cheese and pasta mix, then bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the top is browned. FS