Memories of Maine
There are many ways to enjoy Maine’s signature crustacean, but one of the best and most indulgent is to tuck chunks of lobster meat into creamy mac and cheese.
Last summer my spouse and I and a couple of our best friends rented a van and drove to Rockland, Maine, to attend the Lobster Festival. It was an amazingly epic trip. I was dreading the long drive, but it was surprisingly quick because we took turns driving and made the most of it by stopping to sightsee along the way.
We took the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel through Virginia, skirted the New York City skyline, drove to Cape Cod in Massachusetts and hopped breweries in Portland, Maine. We even drove up to Acadia National Park and watched the sun rise over Canada before finally making our destination in Rockland, Maine.
While at the Lobster Festival we had lobster every way — in chowder, on a roll, steamed whole, on a salad and in macaroni and cheese. It was the creamiest, boldest and most delicious macaroni and cheese I have ever had; I knew I had to recreate it.
Our Airbnb was right on the harbor, and we watched boats come and go with fresh catches such as clams, cod and lobster. We walked down to the water and purchased lobsters right off the boat. Talk about fresh! I used those lobsters and made my version of lobster macaroni and cheese.
There are two different types of lobsters. There are warm water spiny lobsters like offered in the Caribbean, Mediterranean and Asia. Then there are cold water lobsters offered in Maine and shipped all over the United States. Cold water lobsters usually have a whiter, sweeter and more tender meat than warm water lobsters. Cold water lobsters have meat in claws and tail, while warm water lobsters only have edible meat in the tail. For this recipe, you can find cold water lobsters at your local fish market or you can purchase meat at your local grocery store. My local fish market offers just the claws and tails to purchase, so I boiled those and picked the meat right out.
I am not sure of the exact recipe I had in Maine, but this rendition is very close in flavor. I use white cheddar, fontina and gouda cheeses for a super-cheesy result. The cheddar is the classic taste in macaroni and cheese, while the fontina adds a creamy, extra-melty quality. The smoked gouda incorporates a hint of smoky flavor, as if it has cooked all day on an open fire. The dish I had in Maine had a crunchy topping, so I used panko, parmesan and oil for a guaranteed crunch.
As the weather starts to cool down, you might find yourself craving a comforting, stick-to-your-ribs dish on an upscale level, and this is one you have got to try. And if you get the chance to visit Maine for some fresh lobster, definitely do it!