The day's catch: lobster mac 'n' cheese


Whether it be dinner for a slim-walleted college student or served to kids after soccer practice, macaroni and cheese has been a cornerstone in the American family meal plan for decades.

A scrumptious and easy-to-make mini-meal, macaroni and cheese has served our stomachs well. But, keeping in mind that evolution is a part of life, the time has come to say goodbye to the conventional mac 'n' cheese recipe we all know and cherish. Something smells fishy...

OK, so lobster isn't exactly of the fish family, but close enough. A new trend has recently crept into the kitchens of high-end Baltimore restaurants. These affluent restaurants have transformed an at-home easy-bake into a fine-dining appetizer by adding lobster to the traditional ingredients.

The origins of the dish are obscure, although lobster mac 'n' cheese has been popping up on restaurant menus from North Carolina to Missouri to Maine for at least a half-dozen years.

But it made its way to Baltimore just last year when the Blue Sea Grill opened at downtown's Restaurant Row at 614 Water St. David Sadeghi, chief operating officer of Big Steaks Management, owner of the Blue Sea Grill, said he and colleagues wanted to re-create a popular dish with a seafood twist.

"Ideas were passed around, and one thing led to another," Sadeghi said. "We all still have the kid in us; whether you're 40 or you're 4, everybody likes mac 'n' cheese."

His instincts have proven to be correct, as the $8 appetizer is still on the menu and gaining new enthusiasts every day.

Ixia restaurant at 518 N. Charles St. also serves a lobster mac 'n' cheese which combines fontina cheese, truffle oil and crabmeat along with chunks of premium lobster tail meat.

The restaurant introduced the dish in September 2004, intending it to be a fall and winter item only. But the dish has become so popular it has earned a permanent spot on the restaurant's menu.

Ixia's Chef Kevin Miller explains that the idea behind his lobster macaroni and cheese was to "create an American comfort-food favorite with an upscale twist." A meal in itself, this appetizer, though still in its prime, has undergone many alterations.

Beginning with a delightful combination of creamy fontina cheese, Maine lobster, lump crabmeat and white truffle oil, the dish's ingredients have expanded and changed to capture all that is the essence of lobster mac 'n' cheese.

As the seasons change, so do the ingredients. The spring and summer recipes call for fontina cheese. And the fall recipe calls for fontina fonduta and lobster butter. As an added bonus, the fare is now served with half a Maine lobster tail.

Blue Sea Grill Lobster Mac and Cheese

Serves 4

2 ounces butter

4 ounces flour

1 quart half and half

2 tablespoons lobster base (available in specialty markets)

1/4 cup sherry wine

1 pound medium pasta shells

1 pound fresh lobster, chopped

4 ounces gruyere cheese, grated

4 ounces cheddar, grated

Melt butter over low heat in a 4-6 quart pot. Slowly add flour, whisking to create a smooth mixture. Remove from pan when mixture becomes light golden blond in color. Cool on a sheet tray to room temperature. Add half and half to stockpot, whisk in lobster base and sherry. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer. While blending with a whisk, add cooled roux. Boil for an additional 2-3 minutes. Bring 1 quart of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook 8-10 minutes or until pasta is al dente; strain. Fold together cooked pasta, lobster cream sauce and lobster. Portion into 8-ounce ramekin dishes. Top with grated cheeses and place in oven to bake 5 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

Per serving: 1,262 calories, 63 grams protein, 61 grams fat, 37 grams saturated fat, 113 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 263 milligrams cholesterol, 1,782 milligrams sodium.

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