How to make the best mac and cheese of your life

Not many dishes are more alluring than macaroni and cheese. What other food can keep both toddler and gourmet satisfied at the same table? Can you think of another side equally at home in a meat-and-three or a fine-dining restaurant, perhaps gussied up with lobster?

Two versions of the latter won over a number of Asheville mac-and-cheese lovers, at least according to an unofficial social media poll where several people raved about the shellfish-spiked concoction at Posana and The Lobster Trap.

“It was never intended to take off like that, but it did and we’re super happy about it,” said Mike McCarty, chef and partner of the downtown Asheville seafood restaurant. “It’s one of our staple items.”

The Lobster Trap’s mac is rich with lobster base, added to the cheese sauce while it’s cooking. Cream cheese, Parmesan and Gorgonzola further give the dish a rich, cheesy flavor.

Though The Lobster Trap has tried serving a baked version, customers simply weren’t having it. “”To prepare for service, we’ll pour the sauce into a pan, add our pasta and we’ll add our lobster meat of course, and then our seasonings,” McCarty said. “That consistent coating of cheese sauce around lobster meat and pasta, that’s our thing.”

For home cooks, McCarty shared what he thinks is the most important mac-and-cheese secret: the best version starts with a good, blonde roux.

“When you build on top of a roux, it promotes a thick, creamy consistency to really coat your pasta,” he said. “The worst thing is when you dip into your mac and cheese, and there’s this liquid dripping off your fork, taking away all your flavors — no one likes that.”

This is an excerpt from an article that appeared in the Asheville Citizen Times on April 12, 2016 written by Mackensy Lunsford, mlunsford@citizen-times.com.