Friday, February 5, 2016

Lobster In A Bowl

Valentine's Day is a day on which we celebrate love and lobsters.  They sort of go hand in hand, call it a fashionable tradition.  Recent history tells us consumer buying habits prove that on the day when we all show our love, culinarily speaking, no seafood item proves you care for your loved one as much as lobsters do.  Unfortunately, seafood suppliers have caught on to this and have reacted like any intelligent enterprisers would, by keeping prices at a premium while demand booms.  Instead of detracting buyers from purchasing these "bugs", the rising costs have only propelled the mystique of acquiring such a delicious, luxurious gift.

If you are going to prove your true love by purchasing lobster this holiday, here are some ways you can stretch your dollar without looking like you are skimping on the extravagant crustacean.

Incorporate lobster into the meal.  Just because you want to serve lobster doesn't mean you have to emblazon the plate with it.  Think lobster mac n' cheese, lobster with tagliatelle or lobster ravioli.  Lobster meat is a rich and flavorful additive that really shines with good pasta.  You can purchase fresh, cooked lobster meat and only need about half a pound to three quarters for two people.  Simply warming it up in butter with a squeeze of lemon and adding it to nice pasta makes an incredible dish that will leave your bellies full and your cravings sated.

Turn it into an appetizer.  I get that you want to serve something a little more "white tablecloth" than lobster rolls, but starting a meal with a nice lobster salad is a great way to get the evening going.  You can purchase fresh meat, about 4 ounces should do for two, or purchase just one lobster and cook it and extract the meat yourself.  Adding a little mayo, onion, lemon zest, or celery can really stretch your dollar and have you coming off like a truly accomplished epicurean.

Stuff your lobster.  You can get away with only needing to purchase one lobster by splitting the lobster in half, cleaning the head cavity, and stuffing it with a variety of selections that cater to your tastebuds.  Some like to stuff it with crab, in this case purchasing a crab cake and splitting it may work, and others like to use clams, bread crumbs, and seasoning.  In either case you will need a larger lobster, think something close to 2 lbs, but be sure to have a game plan for your stuffing before buying the lobster.  Simply baking or broiling the split lobster will suffice.  Your prep and cook time will be minimal, giving you more time for your more important planned activities (wink, wink...).

Make a bisque.  Chefs all around the world use soups and bisques as profit generators, usually taking scraps worth pennies and turning them into delightful experiences worth dollars.  It's a sure fire way to exhibit the elegance of what good lobster flavor can be without breaking your bank or having to do a lot of extraneous cooking.  Bisques seem complicated, but they really just take a little planning and foresight.  For those of you who think it's out of your wheelhouse, I have added a recipe below from our BlackSalt Fish Market.  My advice is to make it a few days ahead so that flavor can set into the dish.  This will also give you more time to set the mood on that important day without fussing over your dinner.

If you do decide to stay in and cook for your loved one this Valentine's Day, I recommend calling ahead and reserving your fare from your favorite fish market.  Demand sometimes gets out of hand, especially with items such as lobsters, of which supply can be slippery.  Whatever you choose to dine on this year, let me just share a little tip: exquisite seafood awakens the imagination and pleases the mouth without leaving the body heavy or belly bursting.  This Valentine's Day, dress your plate in lobster, minus the cost.

Lobster Bisque 
This is a true bisque in that it is thickened with rice. This will serve about 7-8 portions as a main course lunch.

MAKES: 3-4 cups of bisque base, 7 cups of finished bisque

1 pound of Lobster Shells or 1 Lobsters, 1 ½# - 2#
1.5 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1/2 shallot, sliced
1 small leek, white only, washed and minced, about 1/4 cup
1/2 onion, diced, about 3/4 cup
1 stalk celery, diced, about 1/4 cup
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 level teaspoon kosher salt
1 bay leaf
5 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup Arborio rice
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 cup cream sherry
4 cups lobster stock (If not available you can use shellfish stock or water)
1 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire
3 drops Tabasco
1 1/2 cups half and half
2 cups heavy cream        
1 scallion, sliced thin on a bias
1 teaspoon picked chervil leaves

Cut the lobsters in half if using fresh lobsters. Remove lobster roe and coral. If using lobster shells make sure they are drained of all liquid.  In a brazier pan over medium high heat add the vegetable oil, garlic and shallots and cook 1 minute. Add the leeks, onion, and celery and 2 tablespoons butter and sweat until the onions are transparent. Add the salt, red chile flakes, bay leaf and Arborio rice and cook 2-3 more minutes. Add the tomato paste, and lobster or shells. Cook for two minutes until the lobsters turn red. Deglaze with the sherry and flame if possible with a match or lighter. Let flames subside (about 30 seconds) Add the lobster stock. Bring to a boil and then lower heat to a simmer. Let simmer for 5 minutes. (Remove the lobsters, let cool about 15 minutes, crack knuckles and claws, and remove all of the meat) Add the shells back to the soup base and reduce liquid by half stirring frequently, about 25 minutes. Puree all in a blender and pass through a fine sieve. You should have about 3.5 cups of base. Chop the lobster knuckle meat, slice the tail meat in medallions and the claws in three pieces.
This base can be made a day or two in advance.

To finish the Bisque:
 Add the bisque base to a one gallon sauce pan and add the remaining sherry, lemon juice, half and half, heavy cream, Worcestershire, and Tabasco. Bring to a simmer and whisk in the remaining whole butter, lobster coral and roe.

To Serve: We recommend serving with nice store bought pasta of your liking such as ravioli or agnolotti.  Place an equal amount of lobster in each bowl you are serving and pour the hot bisque over the lobster.  Garnish with the scallions and fresh chervil leaves. Serve immediately.

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