Uni Mac & Cheese: Original Recipe

This year, make the most unique contribution to any Thanksgiving and/or Friendsgiving table with a side dish that includes – what else – sea urchin. Even though I barely know my way around the kitchen, the wannabe-chef inside me somehow managed to create and trial test this uni original mac & cheese recipe for some friends last weekend. Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Uni mac & cheese created by The Uni Diaries.
Uni mac & cheese created by The Uni Diaries.

Total Time: 1 Hour (more or less…)
Prep: 20 Minutes
Cook: 40 Minutes
Yield: 3-4 Servings
Level: Easy (really!)

Ingredients

Macaroni:
– Medium shell or elbow macaroni (1/2 lb)
– Salt (2 tsp)

Sea Urchin Cheese Sauce:
– 1 tray fresh sea urchin (80% of it)
– Unsalted butter (2 tbsp)
– All-purpose flour (2 tbsp)
– Salt (1/2 tsp)
– Milk (1 cup)
– Sharp cheddar cheese (3/4 cup)
– Grated parmesan cheese (1/4 cup)

Topping:
– Sea urchin (remaining 20% of sea urchin tray)
– Panko Japanese-style bread crumbs (1/2 cup)
– Unsalted butter, melted (2 tbsp)

The fresh tray of Maine uni that I used for this recipe, picked up from Eataly in New York City for $22.80.
The fresh tray of Maine uni that I used for this recipe, picked up from Eataly in New York City for $22.80.

Directions:

First, I’d like to caveat that I’m incapable of multitasking in the kitchen so I went through each of the below steps one at a time and a bit out of order (ie I didn’t actually preheat the oven until I had almost everything else prepared). That said, here are the directions in a more “normal” recipe order.

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and grab a 1-quart casserole dish. Feel free to butter the dish (although I accidentally forgot to and it turned out totally fine).

Step 2: Prepare the macaroni as you would any pasta in a sizable pot. Bring the water to a boil, add the salt and macaroni, and cook until tender. This should take about 10-12 minutes. Drain the macaroni. If cooking one step at a time, make sure you stir in a tablespoon or so of butter into the pasta to keep it from sticking while you make your way through the next steps.

Step 3: For the sea urchin cheese sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Amateur Tip: The butter melts pretty quickly so make sure you have your other ingredients fully measured and ready to go at this point.

Step 4: Mix in the flour and the salt, stirring until it starts to bubble and turns a light toasty brown. Should only take a couple minutes. Ideally you’d use a whisk for this but I didn’t have one, so I just used a spatula and it worked without a hitch.

Step 4.
Step 4: Mix butter, flour, and salt.

Step 5: Slowly mix in the milk while constantly stirring. Keep at it until the sauce begins to thicken a bit.

Step 5
Step 5: Slowly mix the milk into the sauce while continuously stirring.

Step 6: Next up, add in both cheeses and stir until it all melts together.

Step
Step 6: Add in the cheddar and parmesan, stirring until everything melts together.

Step 7: Add the macaroni into the cheese sauce. Then, add 80% of the uni from the tray into the pasta concoction and gently mix together until the sea urchin becomes evenly spread throughout.

Step 7
Step 7: Mix 80% of the uni tray into the macaroni and cheese mixture. Try not to accidentally eat all of the uni in the process.

Step 8: Transfer the macaroni and sea urchin cheese mixture into the baking dish. Note: Despite what looks like a LOT of sea urchin in the picture above, once mixed together, it wasn’t quite as intense-looking.

Step 8
Step 8: Transfer the macaroni and sea urchin cheese sauce into the baking dish.

Step 9: In order to make the entire dish even more sea urchin-y, quickly  sear the panko bread crumbs with the other 20% of the uni from the tray and a tablespoon or two of butter in a pan, mashing everything with the spatula in the process. Once done, stir the uni bread crumb mixture with the melted butter inside a small bowl. Note: Once cooked, the topping ended up being my favorite part of the dish as it contained the richest uni flavor.

Step
Step 9: Create your own buttery uni bread crumb mixture as the topping.

Step 10: As a final step, top the uni macaroni with the uni bread crumbs and pop inside the oven. Bake until the bread crumbs are nice and toasty and the cheese starts to bubble a bit around the edges. Should take around 15 minutes or so!

Step
Step 10: Last but not least, top the uni mac & cheese with the uni bread crumbs.

The final result? Winner winner uni dinner aka it was even a hit with the non-sea urchin lovers in the room. Enjoy! Happy cooking and happy Thanksgiving.

The final result

UniDiaries_UniMacCheese9b
The final result: uni mac & cheese with an uni bread crumb topping.

2 comments

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