Thursday, March 15, 2012

Lobster and Mushrooms

Lobster and Mushrooms
Butter poached Maine lobster. Homegrown oyster mushrooms. Potato pavé. Leeks. Rainbow carrots. English peas. Green garlic absinthe lobster cream sauce. Thyme. Chervil.

Avocado and Grapefruit Salad
Avocado. Grapefruit. Homegrown butter lettuce. Frisée. Red onion. Green garlic. Lemon crème fraiche dressing.

I hadn't prepared fresh lobster before, so this was a big one for me. Jessica left the house so I could take care of the business at hand. I wanted to use Thomas Keller's basic approach for cooking the lobster just enough to remove the tail and claws from the shell, but leaving them mostly raw to allow you to refrigerate and cook according to your method of choice later.

I was, however, not comfortable with the boiling alive thing which Keller didn't really specifically speak for or against. I was much more down with Eric Ripert's "humane" method in which the lobster is killed immediately prior to cooking by aggressively stabbing a sharp heavy knife into the seam just below the lobsters head until the tip goes through the cutting board, and then immediately pushing the blade forward, splitting the head between the eyes. This approach requires a good knife, a steady hand, and some solid mental commitment.  You want your knife strokes to be confident and decisive when committing this violent act of crustacaecide. It's really not all that bad, though be prepared for the lobster to twitch and squirm for a little while, as it will experience postmortem involuntary muscle contractions.

I used the Ripert knife murder approach and then steeped the lobsters in boiling, acidulated water for 1 minute per Keller. From there, I removed the tail and claws and returned the claws to steep for another 5 minutes in the water. I removed the meat from the tail meat using kitchen shears and ran a metal skewer through it to keep it from curling too much. I delicately removed the meat from the claw, immediately wrapping the claw and tail meat in plastic wrap and refrigerating. 

I then cleaned the carcass, knuckles, etc and tossed them in a pot along with the shell pieces from the claws. I poured in some olive oil and sauteed the shells until bright red and aromatic and then filled the pot with water and added some onion, tomato, carrots, and green garlic.  and started simmering into a stock. I let this simmer for maybe an hour and a half and then strained it through a chinois to remove the solids. I returned the strained stock to a saucepan and reduced to about 1/4 at which point I whisked in some cream and some absinthe as well as some salt and pepper and let the sauce thicken a bit more. 

While this was going, I started a Beurre monté... basically butter emulsified with a little water and kept warm as my poaching liquid. I sliced and sauteed my potato pavé (which I had prepared the previous day). I big pot blanched my carrots, leeks, and peas transferring each to an ice bath after blanching. I sauteed the mushrooms and chopped my herbs. I then poached the lobster in the beurre monté (over medium heat) on the stove for like 5-6 minutes. While the lobster was heating, I quickly sauteed my (already blanched) veggies to get them to heat. 

Keeping each component warm in a 200 degree oven, as they finished, I was able to time everything well and get it all together and plated. The lobster was fantastic.. very sweet and buttery. Not the best I've ever had (I may have overpoached a bit, especially the tails), but up there... what a wonderful sweet buttery flavor. The pavé was awesome and was a great excuse to put my new Shun mandolin through a serious workout (which it handled with flying colors). The mushrooms came out a little dry. I think I let them go a little past their prime and coupling that with slightly overcooking them in oil, the result was a slightly crispy texture that didn't quite jive with the other textures on the plate, though the flavor was good. The vegetables were overkill. I got big eyes at the Farmer's Market and Whole Foods with all the great Spring produce starting to arrive. I think the dish would have been much better with just the leeks, but I just couldn't pass up those fresh spring English peas and carrots. As usual, a little more restraint/editing would have helped.

All in all I was pleased with this result with my first try at fresh lobster.

Also, I've got to say that the salad was awesome. Avocado and grapefruit pair beautifully, especially with some red onion and green garlic to give it a little bite and some creme fraiche to pull it all together. 


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