Mac ’n’ cheese is like the Holy Grail of vegan cooking, a must-have on every vegan restaurant’s menu and in every vegan home because we all need a little pasta and cheese in our lives. But this is no ordinary mac ’n’ cheese. It’s a classy, sophisticated version that is elevated with the addition of lobster mushrooms, probably the most fun plant-based proxy in this book! They are orangish-reddish in color, kind of look like cooked lobster meat and have a faint seafood-esque flavor. Mixed with an extra-decadent cheese sauce made with roasted garlic, this basic casserole is not so basic. Make it on date night and serve it with a glass of champagne! Reprinted with permission from Wait, That's Vegan by Lisa Dawn Angerame, Page Street Publishing Co. 2020. Photo credit: Alex Shytsman

Lobster Mushroom Mac ’n’ Cheese [Vegan]

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Serves

4-6

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Ingredients

For the Lobster Mushrooms

  • 1 ounce  dried lobster mushrooms, soaked overnight

For the Cheese Sauce

  • 1 cup cashew cream
  • 2 tablespoons melted refined coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons ume plum vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon mashed roasted garlic
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon mellow white miso
  • Pinch of salt

For the Mac ’n’ Cheese

  • 1/2 pound uncooked cavatappi
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons good olive oil, divided
  • 3 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup mushroom soaking liquid, strained well
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons seasoned breadcrumbs
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Preparation

  1. To prepare the mushrooms, lift them out of the soaking liquid, squeezing them as you go, and add them to a strainer. Rinse the mushrooms to remove any grit. Chop into bite-sized pieces and set aside.
  2. Strain the soaking liquid through a paper towel and set aside. To prepare the pasta, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Drain the pasta, reserving some of the water, and put the pasta back into the same pot.
  3. To make the cheese sauce, add cashew cream, oil, vinegar, nutritional yeast, roasted garlic, lemon juice, miso and salt to a blender. Blend until smooth. The cheese sauce can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. If it has thickened up, add a splash of water and mix well.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place a 1 3/4-quart baking dish on top of a half sheet pan. Heat a cast-iron or nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil. When it starts shimmering, add the shallots and salt, and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the chopped mushrooms to the shallots and stir around. Add the mushroom soaking liquid and water and bring to a high simmer. Cook low, slow and uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has almost evaporated and the mushrooms are soft, about 30 minutes. Pour the mushroom-shallot mixture and cheese sauce over the pasta. Use tongs to gently mix everything together. Add a little pasta water to make the sauce silky.
  6. Pour the entire mixture into the baking dish. In a small mixing bowl, combine the breadcrumbs and 1⁄2 tablespoon oil, working it all together until the oil is completely incorporated into the breadcrumbs. Sprinkle on top of the mac ’n’ cheese.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes, until the top looks crispy and the sauce is bubbling. Let stand for at least 10 minutes to cool slightly.

Notes

Dried mushrooms can be found in the market or ordered online. They are easy to reconstitute, but there is some difference of opinion on whether or not to use the soaking liquid for cooking. On the pro side, the liquid is full of flavor. On the con side, there may be some grit left over. We recommend straining the liquid through a paper towel and using it in the sauce. If you are concerned, strain it twice—or leave it out and substitute water or vegetable stock.

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