This is turning into the summer of lobster! First, there were those outrageous sriracha lobster rolls oh-ma-Gawd, so good! From the shells, we made an aromatic lobster stock and now, that stock was going into an indulgent, briny casserole of Lobster Shells & Cheese. I know, it’s over-the-top!
This was Emily’s request, but I’ll admit, she didn’t have to twist my arm very hard to make it. I’d never made a lobster mac n’ cheese, so before I started, I researched other recipes online. Most of them called for adding chunks of lobster to a standard (if not cardiac-event inducing) cheese sauce blended with pasta. Fine, but that’s not what I wanted.
To me, if you’re making something with lobster, it should hit you in the face with that sweet crustacean. Every bite should taste like a briny, windswept summer afternoon on the Maine coast. That’s what I was aiming for in this dish.
I achieved it by infusing the b?chamel with my homemade lobster stock, so that every bite had a subtly sweet lobster flavor. Every shell was coated with briny, cheesy goodness. Rich and creamy, without being cloying. Hearty and filling without the need for defibrillators!
Oh yeah… and I didn’t skimp on the lobster. Instead of tiny bits and flecks of shellfish meat, I cut the tails into generous, easily identifiable chunks. Except the claws — I left the claws whole — so they were kind of reaching out from the depths of the casserole, ? la Jules Verne.
Normally, I’d add the cheese to the hot b?chamel before tossing it with the pasta. In this case, however, I assembled in reverse, tossing the pasta with the b?chamel, then adding the lobster chunks and finally the shredded gruyere. I intentionally did this to keep the shredded cheese intact, until it was baked. This way, I could showcase those mesmerizing long, stretchy ropes of melty cheese as it was scooped from the casserole dish.
I filled the baking dish and topped it with fresh breadcrumbs and extra gruyere. Fifteen minutes later, it was golden and oozy (technical cooking term). You should have seen my diners (Scott and Emily) as I set this on the table — oohing and aaahing, grinning in anticipation! It was like the build up to the next season of House of Cards – you just can’t wait!
Lobster Shells and Cheese
For the fresh breadcrumbs
- 1 slice bread
- 1 teaspoon butter
- 1 tablespoon parsley
For the Seafood Béchamel
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
- pinch cayenne pepper
- 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups lobster stock recipe on this site
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 cup cream
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups shredded gruyere cheese divided
- 1/2 pound medium shell pasta about half a box
- 1 1/2-2 cups cooked lobster chunks
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Cook the pasta 1 minute short of al dente according to package directions -- so if "al dente" is 10 minutes, cook for 9. Pour pasta into a colander and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Set aside to drain.
In a mini-prep food processor add the bread, butter and parsley and pulse until crumbs form. Set aside.
Spray an 8" casserole dish with vegetable spray and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350°.
In a large saucepan, melt the 3 tablespoons of butter over medium to medium high heat and whisk in the mustard, cayenne pepper and flour. Stir for one minute over the heat then add the lobster stock and continue whisking -- mixture will absorb and thicken quickly. Add the milk and cream and continue to whisk. Heat the mixture just to the boiling point, whisking the whole time until it thickens -- and being careful to scrape the bottom and sides of the pan so that the flour mixture doesn't settle onto the bottom.
Remove the sauce from heat and stir in the pasta. Add the lobster and 1 3/4 cups gruyere cheese and parsley. Stir to combine. Pour the pasta mixture into the prepared dish. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and remaining gruyere cheese.
Bake for 15 minutes or until breadcrumbs are lightly browned and casserole is bubbly. Jump up and down because it's ready and your about to be a very happy camper!