Stag Hacks: Trader Joe’s Lobster Mac and Cheese

I really wanted this to be a #PostYourRecipeAndGo post. I did.

However this is a blog about solo living, so I do feel obligated to explain how I arrived at mac and cheese for one.

Angela Davis (at kitchenistadiaries.com) is one of my fave comfort foodies on Twitter, and I adore her site (and e-books! Go buy them!). However, she cooks for family, and I am just one person. So I end up furiously adapting recipes to fit my lack of enthusiasm for the idea of eight servings of leftovers.

Which brings me to mac and cheese.

If you scroll back far enough on my Instagram, you’ll note there was an entire month where it seemed all I posted was mac and cheese. Creamy mac, cheeseburger mac, Cajun mac with shrimp, I did it all (I also gained eight pounds). I became obsessed with figuring out how to shrink the recipe, reduce some of the labor-intensiveness of it (because all that grating for 2-4 servings?) and still make it tasty.

Enter Trader Joe’s, and a random surplus of their “crowd cheeser” cheese platter after having friends over.

I have no idea what made me think “I have just enough for a tiny bit of mac and cheese!”but it was enough to make me try it. I’d long started using sliced block cheese (that I hand-chopped) from the deli for the larger pans, so why not mini-slices from TJ’s? Turns out the entire process was just within my labor intensive comfort range and within my time/pots limit. And since we’re all about hacks here (as in, how do we not have to buy a ton of fresh ingredients that will go to waste), I present what I’m now calling “Trader Joe’s Lobster Mac and Cheese”!

(I’m sure this recipe could be tripled or quadrupled to accommodate larger servings or more people, but please don’t ask me. This is a FUBU production.)

Lobster Mac and Cheese (Click HERE to print)

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Servings:  1 Meal-size serving

1 oz Sharp Cheddar (or 2 slices of TJ’s “crowd cheeser” cheddar)

1 oz Pepper Jack  (or 2 slices of TJ’s “crowd cheeser” pepper Jack)

1/2 oz Gouda (I used one slice of TJ’s Sliced Smoked Gouda)

1/2 cup Dried mini Elbow or Mezze Penne noodles

1 tbsp Salted Butter, plus additional for baking dish

1 tbsp All-Purpose Flour

1 cup Whole Milk

1 Dried Bay Leaf

1/2 Shallot, sliced in thick rounds (do not substitute w onion)

1 Packet TJ’s Savory Broth Reduced Sodium Liquid Concentrate (or low-sodium bullion, must be under 500mgs of sodium)

1 pinch dry mustard

1 pinch nutmeg

Black pepper to taste

1 shake of Worcestershire sauce (this is for one, remember!)

1/4 cup TJ’s Langostino Tails

Kosher salt (for pasta water)

Old Bay Seasoning & Chopped Parsely(for garnish/topping)

 

Place cheese slices in freezer for 5-10 minutes for ease of chopping. While the cheese firms up, bring 3 cups of water to boil in a small saucepan. Add kosher salt and dried bay leaf, simmer on lowest heat for 10 minutes or until leaf begins to soften. Turn off heat and cover until ready to boil noodles. While the water boils, slice 1/2 of the shallot into thick rounds and place in a microwave-proof bowl with the milk, microwave on high 2 minutes. Set aside to steep.

Pre-heat your oven to 350. Bring water back to boil, boil noodles till 1 minute short of al-dente (around 5 minutes). While the noodles boil, remove cheese slices from freezer and chop as finely as you can, put back in fridge. Butter your baking dish (I used a mini-ceramic cast-iron pan, but an aluminum mini loaf works well here), set aside. Drain the noodles (reserving the water and bay leaf), rinse in cold water.  Remove shallot slices from milk (the remaining steps go fast and the roux requires your undivided attention, so make sure you get your mise en place!).

In the same saucepan, melt 1 tbsp of butter over medium-low  heat until foamy. Add your tablespoon of flour and stir with a whisk to combine. Lift the pot slightly away from the heat and continue to stir for two minutes or until the roux turns a little golden and the raw flour smell turns toasty. Once your roux is ready, return pot to heat and add a splash of the pasta water (about 1- 1 1/2 tbsp), continuously stirring. Add the milk in a small stream as you continue to stir. Bring béchamel to a boil and turn the heat to low, stirring often. Simmer until it thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon (this goes much faster than you think), turn off the heat & grab your cheese. Add the chicken broth concentrate, pepper, dry mustard, nutmeg and Worcestershire sauce. Stir 3/4 of the cheese mix into the béchamel until melted, then add your noodles.

Pour 1/2 of the mixture into your baking pan, add 1/2 of the langostino tails, top with remaining noodles (this recipe makes about 1/8 cup too much cheese sauce, but I won’t tell if you won’t). The mix will go all the way to the top, but I love the look of cheese bubbling over the pan! Top with remaining cheese, place on a baking dish to save your oven and bake for 15 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and brown in spots. Remove from oven, top with a healthy shake of old bay, remaining langostino tails and parsley. Eat right out of the pan with no regrets, and make sure to take a few pics to make your friends jealous!

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Stag Series: My Favorite Date (#NaBloPoMo Day 7)

DAY 7// Tell us about your favorite autumnal edible treat.

When was the last time you took yourself out on a date?

And WHY isn’t this a tradition, hmm?

Hands down, my favorite “first” date is a dessert date. A guy took me out for cupcakes once and I never looked back. It’s stress-free, there’s no obligation to make it long, you don’t have to dress up or act pretentious (it’s cheap) and you can always keep the date going if it goes well!

If you’re wondering…it didn’t. But the seed was planted.

Since then I have made a dessert date with myself a bi-monthly tradition. Just me, a cute-but-comfy getup, a book (or the Kindle-app on my phone) and a big cup of coffee. And as such, I’ve acquired a few haunts that I consider favorites. One of my absolute faves is Betty Bakery!

Located a few blocks away from the Barclays Center on Atlantic Avenue, Betty’s is a cornucopia of confections, a haven of yum. While their specialty (and main business) is elaborately designed special-occasion cakes and custom pies, they supplement this with a small front where they sell more portable treats, such as homemade Twinkies and single-servings of their pies and cakes. And while my summer is filled with sweet mouthfuls of their excellent key-lime pie, from October on?

It’s all about the Pumpkin Pie with in-house whipped cream.

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I can’t even describe this not-too-sweet, not-too spicy perfection laid upon the flakiest of crusts. Ice-cold, warm, a-la mode, alone with coffee, topped with meringue, I have literally eaten every version of this pie they have ever made-and I’m a sweet potato pie lover! It’s so good I don’t share. Don’t you ask me for a bit of my pie, dawg. Get your own.

It’s my absolute favorite treat, and my favorite date.

How about you? Any favorite solo-date traditions?