I can’t help but pimp up this classic comfort food with some sweet, juicy lobster meat, for that ultimate indulgence.
Alternatively, if you’re feeling a little less extravagant, prawns or even chicken works well.
1 teaspoon salt
200g elbow macaroni
65g gruyere cheese, grated
60g cheddar cheese, grated
100g parmesan cheese, grated
100g dry breadcrumbs
or 80g fresh breadcrumbs
40g butter, melted
3-4 parsley sprigs
3-4 thyme sprigs
3-4 tarragon sprigs
1 bay leaf
1 lobster, freshly cooked
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 carrot, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
250ml white wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
250ml vegetable stock
250ml thickened cream, plus extra to drizzle
salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
To make the bouquet garni, tie the herbs together securely with kitchen string. Set aside.
To make the lobster bisque, separate the lobster head from the body, cut the tail in half lengthways and remove the shell. Cut the meat into small pieces, place in a bowl, cover and refrigerate until needed. Remove all the yucky bits in the head that can taste bitter and discard them. Using a cleaver, chop the head and shell into small pieces.
Heat the oil in a large, deep saucepan over a medium–low heat, add the chopped lobster head and shells and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the carrot, celery, onion and garlic, and keep cooking until the onion is soft and translucent, about 3 minutes.
Being extremely careful, add the brandy to the pan and flambé with a match or by tilting the saucepan close to the flame from a gas stovetop. Swirl the pan a little and let the alcohol burn out, then add the white wine. Using a wooden spoon, scrape the base of the pan to dislodge any caramelised bits. Let the wine reduce to almost evaporated, add the tomato paste, cook for 1 minute then add the stock, cream and bouquet garni and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to the lowest heat and let it simmer for 1 hour until the liquid has reduced by half. Remove from the heat and let it cool a little, about 15 minutes.
Strain the lobster bisque through a fine sieve into a clean saucepan. Discard the solids. Season the bisque to taste. Now reheat the smooth lobster bisque over a very low heat to keep warm.
Preheat the oven to 200ºC. Butter a 1.5 litre gratin dish. Bring a large saucepan of water to a rolling boil over a high heat, then add the salt. Drop the macaroni in, give it a quick stir then let it cook for 10 minutes, or until al dente. Drain, shake off any excess water and add the pasta to the bisque. Add the lobster meat and cheeses, then fold until well combined.
Combine the breadcrumbs and butter in a small bowl. Mix well.
Pour the mac ’n’ cheese into the prepared dish, drizzle with a little extra cream if it seems dry, sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture over the top and bake for 15–20 minutes until the topping is golden and the sauce is bubbling. Remove from the oven, let it cool for 5 minutes before serving.
Recipe from Man Food by Billy Law.