THE CAPITAL GRILLE LOBSTER MAC ’N’ CHEESE

A video clip of an appearance that I discovered online from TV station WPRI in Rhode Island features Capital Grille chef Matthew Gallagher demonstrating the technique his restaurant uses to create its signature Lobster Mac ’N’ Cheese side dish. Chef Gallagher explains that the chain uses four cheeses in the sauce: a soft cheese, a hard cheese, a flavorful cheese, and a sharp cheese, but he doesn’t tell us exactly what those cheeses are.

After a trip to the restaurant to question the server, I discovered that the soft cheese is mascarpone, the flavorful cheese is Havarti, and the sharp cheese is white cheddar. My server said that the hard cheese is Parmesan, but after studying the menu and discovering Grana Padano being used to stuff the olives of the chain’s 601 martini cocktail, I’m more inclined to use that in the recipe instead. If you can’t find Grana Padano, go with the similar Parmigiano-Reggiano, or less expensive Parmesan.

The chain uses claw meat for the dish, which probably comes from the freshly cooked lobster it serves as entrées, but it’s tough to find claw meat in stores without buying a whole fresh lobster. For this clone use the meat from two lightly poached medium lobster tails, which are much easier to procure. The restaurant uses campanelle pasta because it holds onto the sauce, but feel free to use bow tie pasta, tube-shaped pasta, even pasta shaped like dinosaurs if that’s the mood you’re in.

CRUMB TOPPING
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
½ cup panko bread crumbs
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

5 ounces lobster meat (2 small tails)
8 ounces uncooked campanelle pasta (12 ounces when cooked)
6 cups water
1 tablespoon plus ¼ teaspoon salt
1¾ cups heavy cream
4 ounces (½ cup) mascarpone cheese
3 ounces (1 cup) shredded Havarti cheese
2 ounces (¾ cup) grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 ounce (⅓ cup) shredded white cheddar cheese


Cooking method


1-Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

2-Prepare the crumb topping by melting the butter in a small pan over medium heat, then add the bread crumbs. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring often, until the crumbs are browned. Pour the crumbs into a small bowl and stir in the Parmesan cheese. Set aside.

3-Poach the lobster tails in the shells for 2 minutes in boiling water. Remove the meat from the shells and chop it into large chunks. Set aside.

4-Prepare the pasta by dropping it into a 2½- to 3-quart saucepan filled with 6 cups of water plus 1 tablespoon of salt boiling over high heat. Cook the pasta for 8 minutes. It will still be very al dente (tough) at this point. Drain the pasta but don’t rinse it.

5-Make the sauce by combining 1½ cups of cream with the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When the cream begins to bubble, reduce the heat and add the mascarpone, Havarti, and Grana Padano (or Parmigiano-Reggiano). Cook while stirring often for 3 minutes or until the sauce is smooth.

6-Pour the remaining ¼ cup of cream into a large skillet over medium heat. Add the lobster and cook for 2 to 3 minutes to heat up the lobster. Pour the cheese sauce into the pan along with the cooked pasta and add the cheddar cheese. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes until the cheese sauce begins to thicken a bit, then pour it all into an oven-safe serving dish. Use a small spoon to bring several chunks of lobster to the top (looks better this way!). Bake the mac and cheese in the oven for 4 to 5 minutes or until it begins to bubble around the edges.

7-Sprinkle the dish with the bread crumbs just before serving.


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