Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Execution

Well, it's done. Because of me, a lobster has gone to crustacean heaven. For Valentine's Day, I wanted to make my husband something special, specifically, Laura Calder's "Lobster Stew." I've never cooked a lobster before, and was riddled with guilt about the whole thing. I went to purchase my unfortunate friend to be steamed by myself, but chickened-out and had the fishmonger do it. (Which is free of charge.) So, with the dirty business done, I still had the challenge of ripping off the claws, legs, and twisting off the tail. But nothing could prepare me for the initial whack of a meat mallet, in which lobster "goo" flew everywhere! YUCK! (None of my cook books informed me to let the excess water drain out of the pieces before cracking open the shells.) After an extreme kitchen AND me cleanup, I did manage to get both of the lobster claw meat out in one piece, along with the legs, and tail! HOORAY! With the dirty work done, the rest of the dish was a cinch!

The stew turned out strikingly beautiful and tasted amazingly fresh and delicious! The only comment I have, would allow for one lobster per serving, instead of half per the recipe. It was a lot of work and I was left wanting MORE!

Lobster Stew

Serves 4 (I halved the recipe for just my husband and me. Lobster isn't cheap!)


2 live lobsters, about 1 1/2 pounds each
3 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons Cognac
12 asparagus tips
12 slices yellow zucchini
6 radishes, halved
2 handfuls of freshly shelled or frozen peas
Salt and pepper
Lemon juice
A small handful of chopped fresh chervil, for garnish (I couldn't find any!)


For the lobsters
Pour enough water into a large pot to come up about a finger deep. Bring to a boil, put the lobsters in head first, cover, and steam 5 minutes. Drain, and rinse under cold water until cool enough to work with. Shell the lobsters, reserving 12 of the meatiest legs and the shells; discard the body. You should have four intact claws and two tails that you can have lengthwise.

Wrap the meat and refrigerate until ready to use. Chop the shells to pieces with a mallet or in the food processor. Set aside.

For the broth
Melt half the butter in a large saute pan over medium heat, and cook the onion until soft. Stir in the tomato paste, and add the lobster shells. Pour over the Cognac and carefully light it. When the flames have died down, pour over 3 cups water, and boil until the liquid is reduced to 1 1/2 cups. Strain, pressing down on the shells to extract all the juices. 

Return the lobster stock to the saute pan. Discard the shells.

For the vegetables
While the sauce is reducing, cook the vegetables, separately, in a pot of boiling salted water until al dente, 30 seconds to 2 minutes, depending on the vegetable. When each is done, using a strainer or slotted spoon, immediately plunge into an ice bath to preserve the color. Drain.

Finishing the dish
Bring the lobster stock in the saute pan to a simmer, uncovered. Add the lobster, and poach gently for 3 minutes. Add the vegetables, and continue to cook for 2 minutes. Arrange half a tail and a whole claw in each of four soup plates. Using a slotted spoon, divide the vegetables evenly around the meat. You should have about 1 cup sauce left in the pan; if you have too much, quickly boil it down. Whisk in the remaining butter. Taste, and season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Ladle the broth over the lobster and vegetables, scatter over the chervil, and serve. DELICIOUS!

Recipe from French Taste: Elegant Everyday Eating, by Laura Calder

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