September 25, 2013

Soup to Nuts: Make mine lobster, Mac

Quiz: What's a comfort food that shouts 'Maine!?' (Hint: the state's chefs are getting ever more creative with it.)

By Meredith Goad
Staff Writer

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Chef Steve Corry’s lobster macaroni and cheese first appeared on the menu at Five Fifty-Five in 2004 and has become one of the restaurant’s signature dishes.

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Chef Charles Doherty of Trackside Station in Rockland favors Morgan cheese for his spin on the dish, Thai My Lobster.

Meredith Goad/Staff Writer

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"He has a signature dish that he does, and it's Maine lobster with orzo pasta, the tiny rice-like grain pasta, and mascarpone," Corry said. "That's kind of where the dish was born, really. We took that and interpreted it a bit. That was two bites at the Laundry. We needed a dish that would suit the clientele here."

Corry's version is made with torchio, a torch-shaped, imported Italian pasta that holds sauce well; raw lobster poached in butter; five kinds of cheeses, including mascarpone, fontina, gruyere, cheddar and Parmigiano-Reggiano; shaved black truffles and snipped chives.

"Originally it started out as kind of a colder weather dish and a way to keep lobster on the menu all year round," Corry said. "We've never been one of those restaurants -- not that there's anything wrong with it -- to serve it in the shell. We would pull (the truffled lobster mac and cheese) off in late spring, and people would just complain."

Customers started telling Corry that they came to the restaurant just to try that dish, and if it wasn't on the menu he would make it for them. Now it is one of Five Fifty-Five's signature dishes, Corry said, and it has to be on the menu all the time, "which is great from a business perspective, but as a chef it's somewhat restricting."

Corry's dish got to be so popular that other restaurants in the area started coming up with their own versions, until it was on menus all over town. The hype has died down a bit in the past couple of years, but it's still a dish you can find locally.

Corry has some advice for people who want to try making their own lobster mac and cheese at home. The chef and his staff researched pasta when they were developing the Five Fifty-Five recipe, and found that the torchio shape held the sauce best.

"It depends on how thick your sauce is, but I think the pasta is very important," he said. "The cheese, that's subject to opinion. I saw a version that was blue cheese lobster mac and cheese, and I thought wow, that is going to defeat the purpose, in my opinion. Blue cheese is so strong, you're going to lose the actual flavor of the lobster."

He recommends using a blend of cheeses that includes some softer varieties with milder flavors that won't overwhelm the flavor of the lobster.

"The hard aged cheeses tend to break," Corry said. "They'll get real oily. I don't know if you've ever had someone's mac and cheese where you're like, what is all this grease on top? And it's the fat breaking out of the cheese when you heat it up. So we do use a range of cheeses, and a lot of them are soft. It's a bechamel base sauce, it's kind of classic French technique."

If you don't want to create your own version, try one of these recipes.

Just be sure to use plenty of lobster.

Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

Twitter: MeredithGoad

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Deanna Zoe Smith of Tenants Harbor keeps it simple for her version of the dish, Meme’s Lobster Mac ‘n Cheese.

Meredith Goad/Staff Writer

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Mollie Sanders of Kittery Point used some mild cheeses for her Mollie’s Decadent Mascarpone Baked Shells with Maine Lobster because of “that old Italian thing of no cheese with seafood.” But she likes the “snappy bite” of a cheddar. “People are used to putting something tart with seafood, like tartar sauce or lemon juice,” she said, “so I liked the brightness of a real sharp cheddar.”

Meredith Goad/Staff Writer


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