Thursday, January 22, 2015

New England (Lobster) Mac n' Cheese

Mac n' Cheese is a classic! We have all pigged out on the box brands at one timer anther, and maybe even ate cartoon shaped mac n' cheese growing up.  However, because mac n' cheese can be such a staple for kids, it often gets overlooked as we grow older.  Let me change that for you...

Even I am guilty of not eating mac n' cheese that often because I always associated it with the bright orange Kraft brand that I ate as a kid.  Not that there is anything wrong with that (it can be quite addicting), but I just wanted something different.  And then I had mac n' cheese at a family dinner a few years back, and my viewpoint changed forever!

Once I took a bite of that homemade mac n' cheese, the wheels in my head starting turning with all the ways in which I could recreate the dish and create several others! That really is the beauty of mac n' cheese - it is so versatile that you can have fun with it and add any cheese you like, pasta brand you prefer, and any other special ingredients like chicken, spinach, and even seafood.  Yes, seafood!

Since I am a proud New Englander, I LOVE lobster (I mean, I kind of have to), so I thought, why not add it to my mac n' cheese? Well, I'm glad I did! It may sound odd to some, but give this a try, and you will enjoy!

New England Mac n' Cheese

-1 pound penne or elbow pasta (I used whole wheat)
-1 pound fresh lobster, chopped up (you can buy it like this from the fish counter to save time)
-1/2 pound baby shrimp (optional - you can add more if you have less lobster or if it is not fresh in your market)
-4 tablespoons butter, plus 2 tablespoons 
-1 onion, chopped
-1 clove of garlic, minced
-1/4 cup flour
-1/4 cup dry white wine (or your favorite white)
-2 cups heavy cream
-1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
-2 cups white cheddar cheese, shredded
-2 cups Gruyere cheese, shredded
-1/4 cup bread crumbs (preferably Panko bread crumbs)
-Salt and pepper to taste
-Freshly chopped parsley for sprinkling
-Optional: White truffle oil (a few drops if you have it - not needed otherwise)


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Bring a pot of water to a boil, add a little salt and the pasta.  Cook for about 8 minutes, or until the pasta is al dente.  Reserve one cup of the pasta water before draining.  Set pasta aside in a large bowl or you can place in a casserole dish.  Just keep in mind that you will be stirring in other ingredients, so you want the room to stir.  
Meanwhile, in another saucepan, melt the 4 tablespoons of butter.  Add the onion, garlic, salt and pepper to taste, and saute for a couple of minutes. Add the flour and cook for an additional two minutes.  The onions will clump together a bit with the flour, but that is okay.  Whisk in the wine and let it reduce by almost half.  Once the wine has reduced, whisk in the heavy cream and nutmeg and cook for about 5 - 10 more minutes, or until the mixture thickens. 

Once the cream mixture has thickened, remove from the heat and stir in a couple drops of truffle oil if using. Pour the cream mixture over the pasta.  Then, fold in the cheeses and seafood.  If the mixture is too thick for your liking, you can add a little of the reserved pasta water to help loosen it up.

Transfer all of the pasta into a casserole dish and sprinkle the top with the bread crumbs and parsley.  Melt the reserved two tablespoons of butter and drizzle it over the top of the bread crumbs.  Place the casserole dish in the oven and cook for about 15 - 20 minutes, or until the top starts to become a golden brown and the cheese is bubbling. 

I hope you enjoy this New England twist on a classic comfort food!

For more Mac n' Cheese #ComfortFoodFeast posts, check out the sites below:
The Heritage Cook: Gluten-Free Cream Cheesy Risotto
The Mom 100: 
One Skillet Carroty Macaroni and Cheese
Daisy at Home: 
Squasheroni and Cheese
Creative Culinary: 
Smoked Gouda with Bacon Macaroni and Cheese
The Cultural Dish: 
New England (Lobster) Mac n' Cheese
The Wimpy Vegetarian: 
Curried Cauliflower and Greens Mac ’n Cheese
Napa Farmhouse 1885: 
Cauliflower and Veggie "Mac" & Cheese
Red or Green: 
Mac & Cheese with Ham and Jalapenos
Swing Eats: 
Super Creamy Crab Mac-N-Cheese with Scallions (gluten-free)
Taste with the Eyes: 
Korean "Mac and Cheese" with Beef, Kimchi, Cheddar
Rice Cooker Mac and Cheese
FN Dish: 
Food Network Chefs' Takes on the Gooiest Mac and Cheese Ever

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Monday, January 19, 2015

Homemade Granola

Today my husband is cooking! Yes, you heard right.  My. Husband. Is. Cooking. From scratch no less!

Note the shirt - told you we run, but indulge!

It's no secret that my husband and I work out and run a lot.  Like a lot a lot. We do many road races together, but we also like to indulge together! After all, I'm still Italian and Irish!  However, the hubs has been very good about having us cut out processed foods and unhealthy eats during the week.  In fact, he has been so good, that after watching an episode of America's Test Kitchen, he was inspired to make his own granola!

Granola is great in yogurt, oatmeal, cereals, and just on its own... BUT, it can be so expensive! Not only does it cost, but it's usually packed with a lot of unnecessary crap.  Granted, homemade or not, you should never be eating bagfuls of granola in one sitting, but making it on your own ensures that you are a.) putting something better into your body and b.) saving money! Now who doesn't want to save a little cash?

Oh, and this recipe makes a BOATLOAD of granola, so you will have plenty to last you for a couple of weeks!

Homemade Granola (Adapted from America's Test Kitchen)

-1/3 cup maple syrup (can use honey, but the maple is actually better ironically, and it's a small amount)
-1/3 cup light brown sugar
-4 teaspoons vanilla extract
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1/2 cup vegetable oil
-5 cups old fashioned rolled oats (do not use instant/quick oats)
-2 cups raw almonds, slivered
-1 cup of a seed, like pumpkin seeds (we use these - yum)
-1 to 2 cups of a dried fruit of your choice

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  To help the parchment paper stay down, you can grease the pan and then place the parchment on top.  Set aside.

In a bowl, whisk together the syrup, brown sugar, extract, and salt.  Then whisk in the vegetable oil. Fold in the oats, almonds, and pumpkin seeds (if using), until all of the oats and nuts are coated.

Spread the oat mixture out evenly in a thin layer on the parchment lined baking pan.  Using a spatula, press the mixture down firmly to help "pack" it all into place on the pan.  Bake in the oven for 40 minutes, or until golden brown, and make sure to rotate the pan halfway through cooking.  Let cook on a wire rack for an hour.

Before cooking

After cooking

Once cooled, break the granola into pieces and mix in the dried fruit (if using).  I hope enjoy my husbands homemade granola experience!

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