ROCKLAND — We all have a past. Rockland City Councilor Louise MacLellan-Ruf shared hers on Saturday at the Penobscot School at 28 Gay Street in Rockland. In 2013, she won first place in the amateur category during Lobsterpalooza’s Lobster Mac and Cheese contest with her dish, Lobster Mac and Cheese Rockland Style. On March 29 she partnered with Nohora Estes, who teaches Spanish at the school, presenting a cooking lesson and Spanish lesson all in one morning.
The Lobsterpalooza contest was held last September at the State of Maine Cheese Company. MacLellan-Ruf said she won because she didn’t prepare mac and cheese with lobster in it; rather, she served lobster with mac and cheese. The difference is subtle, but it worked.
She said it is important not to use a heavy macaroni in the dish. She uses bow tie pasta because it’s much lighter and not overpowering. She said that it is important to under-cook both the pasta and lobster so that they can finish in the oven without becoming over-cooked and dry out.
Richard Whitman, a lobster fisherman out of Rockland, donated the three lobsters needed to make the dish.
MacLellan-Ruf moved to the area in 2003 from Providence, Rhode Island. As she put it, “my cooking experience did not come from my mother.”
“It was one of our first nights here and we wanted a place to eat,” she said. “It was maybe 9 p.m. and there wasn’t any place open except for the Chinese restaurant. I decided right then and there that I was going to have to learn how to cook if we were going to eat well. I’m doing this here, today, because I wanted to give something back to the school.”
Nohora (pronounced Nora) Estes is a native Colombian and has been at Penobscot School for more than 20 years. She established the Spanish program at the Riley School in 1998, where she teaches K-8 grades. Estes also teaches private Spanish lessons and confided she liked to dance the Salsa. Her part was to assist in the kitchen and translate everything into Spanish.
After introductions around the room — ¿cómo te llamas? — things got down to business.
Estes imparted that the best Spanish phrase one could learn is, lo siento, I’m sorry.
Everyone was invited to vamos a lavarnos las manos, wash hands before they got started.
“Pero numero uno, vamos a divertirnos y oprender mucho.” (The number one thing to remember today was to have fun and learn a lot.)
Sue Garrett, of Belfast, decided to visit Rockland when she heard about lobster macaroni and cheese.
“This is just a real treat to me,” she said. “I love macaroni and cheese and I love lobster. I heard Louise had won an award for the dish and I thought, wow, this could be great I have to go to this. I’ve never had lobster macaroni and cheese. They do make it in the Hannaford’s store up there, but someone suggested that I don’t try it, so I’m part of the class and I’m going to learn how to make it.”
MacLellan-Ruf started with the lobster and was quick to point out that you cut the bands around the claws off before you cook them. She said the rubber can impart an elastic taste to the water that you don’t want to translate to your lobster meat.
After picking the lobster things got started. The circle tightened around the cooking area as students vied for position and handed ingredients to the cooks as the recipe unfolded.
An advantage to being close included the several times one got to taste the dish as it progressed. Lots of spoons were cycled through. Louise explained the dish in English and Nohora followed with a Spanish translation.
Finally, it was time to place the dish in the oven and clean the area, set the table and sit down to enjoy the fruits of labors. The three-hour class ended with everyone sitting around the table enjoying Lobster Mac and Cheese Rockland Style with big smiles on faces, some applause and lively banter.
Rebecca Taylor, of Spruce Head, produces documentary videos. You see her and her camera in a lot of the pictures. She recently moved back home from Washington, D.C., where she worked on programs for PBS. She is producing a short documentary on the Lobster Mac and Cheese Rockland Style.
She wants to do a documentary on an adult learning to swim. For info or to help she can be contacted at email@example.com
Recipe: Lobster Mac and Cheese Rockland Style (serves 8-10)
Preheat oven to 350-375 degrees
1 pound (or more) of picked, undercooked (10 minutes) lobster meat
Reserve liquid from lobsters and shells
Cut half the meat into bite-sized pieces
Cut the other half into smaller pieces
1 pound box bowtie pasta cooked al dente
4 Tablespoons of all purpose flour
4 Tablespoons of melted butter
3 ½ cups whipping cream
2 teaspoons paprika
¼ cup sherry
8 ounces mascarpone cheese
1 cup grated mild cheddar cheese
3 Tablespoons cream cheese
Splash of Siracha sauce
Splash of Worcestershire sauce
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
2 cloves roasted garlic
Place butter and flour in a medium sauce pan and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes
Add whipping cream and whisk over a low heat
Whisk in paprika and sherry
Simmer 3 to 4 minutes or until sauce thickens
When thickened add mascarpone, grated cheddar and cream cheese
Whisk between each ingredient until combined
Add Siracha, Worchester, garlic and maple syrup
Stir to combine
Remove 1/3 of sauce and place into a second sauce pan
Add the larger pieces of cut lobster to the second pan
Add the smaller pieces to the original pan
Fold in pasta
If the sauce needs to be thinned, add some milk or lobster broth
Add lobster to a buttered casserole dish
Add the second larger lobster sauce over the top
Sprinkle with bread crumbs and spread evenly
Bake 30 to 40 minutes
Allow to rest 10 minutes before serving
For a more intimate setting, place lobster mac in individual ramikins
Essence of lobster:
Save the water you cook the lobsters in
Reserve all liquid from the lobsters when picking cooked lobsters
Place all liquid and shells back in pot
Bring to a boil
Let cook till reduced
Note: You can cook the liquid all the way down and then freeze using pieces to flavor dishes in the future.
Bread crumb topping:
1 sleeve crushed crackers (Your favorite cracker will do)
¼ cup melted butter
Zest of one small lemon
Combine butter and crackers.
Add zest and parsley
Garnish with lobster fins for an added touch.
Sprinkle with a little parsley for color.