Oh, I was all set to write about my favorite weeknight Indian chicken dish and then I saw this. To die for. This is what I will be making for my beloved family next week, as part of a Valentine’s feast. I will serve it with floppy, butter lettuce leaves coated lemony-mustard vinaigrette, a crusty, warm baguette with a side of Meursault wine from Burgundy (a half-bottle to make it more affordable). We’ll finish the meal with light and fluffy chocolate soufflé, plucked from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. (If you don’t have this iconic book, get it today. It’s essential.)
Lobster was once considered food for servants. The bottom feeder shellfish. Abundant and cheap. Then it morphed into one of the fancy foods, something you ordered in a restaurant when someone else was paying the tab. Some people are scared of cooking lobster. They wince when dropping the lives crustaceans into boiling water. I understand that. But when compared to the plethora of processed foods, prepackaged plastic rations simply heated in a microwave, I rejoice at the thought of preparing live lobsters. And compared to the price of good quality, grass-fed meats, lobster is relatively inexpensive (about $11/pound in the New York area). I’ll be getting mine at the wonderful Red Hook Lobster Pound.
This recipe is barely adapted from the one that appeared in the New York Times today. I will probably use packaged puff pastry (yes, sometimes ready-made is the better choice in our house). And I promise to give you my favorite weeknight chicken recipe soon.
Lobster Stew with Pastry
Serves 2, generously
2 lobsters, about 1 pound each
3 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup finely diced celery
1 cup finely diced leek
Salt and pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon chopped thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 cup half-and-half cream
2 teaspoons potato starch dissolved in 2 tablespoons cold water
1/4 cup crème fraîche
2 baked 6-inch diameter flaky pastry lids (use thawed frozen or make your own in recipe as follows)
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped tarragon or dill
1 tablespoon chives, cut very small
2 tablespoons chopped celery leaves, from interior stalks
1. Place the lobsters in a large pot of rapidly boiling water over high heat. Cook for 6 minutes, then remove them and cool in a large bowl of cold water.
2. Take the meat from the claws, tail and knuckles. (Discard the shells or use them for lobster stock.) Then cut the meat into roughly 1/2-inch chunks and set aside.
3. Melt the butter in a wide, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the celery and leek, season with salt and pepper, stir and cook until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the lobster meat, cayenne, thyme and lemon zest and stir together.
4. Pour in the half-and-half and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the potato starch mixture and cook until thickened, about 1 minute. Check the seasoning and adjust, then stir in the crème fraîche.
5. Spoon the hot lobster stew into 2 deep bowls. Place a baked pastry lid on each. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley, tarragon, chives and celery leaves, and serve immediately.
150 grams all-purpose flour (about 1 cup), plus more for dusting
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut in 1/4-inch cubes
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon half-and-half.
1. Put the flour and a pinch salt in a mixing bowl. With fingers, work half the butter (4 tablespoons) into the flour until completely incorporated. Add the remaining butter, leaving it in small chunks. Quickly stir in 1/4 cup ice water to form a somewhat sticky ball. Knead together briefly, wrap in plastic, and press to make a flat disk about 1-inch thick. Refrigerate overnight or for at least an hour.
2. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface to a diameter of about 12 1/2 inches. If using frozen puff pastry, thaw one sheet for about 1 hour on counter or overnight in fridge. Roll out on lightly floured surface into a 14″ square. Using an inverted bowl as a guide, cut two 6-inch diameter circles. (The remaining dough can be rerolled and saved for another purpose.) Mix egg yolk and half- and-half. Place the circles on a parchment-lined baking sheet and paint lightly with the egg yolk mixture.
3. Bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees, then lower the temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking until nicely browned, about 10 minutes. (May be baked ahead, if desired, and reheated.)