Sunday, December 24, 2017

Ah, what a dinner!

Ah, what a dinner!  Debbie and I started cooking around 9 am yesterday morning, and (along with my brother Scott) we sat down to eat at around 2 pm.  The menu had only three items: lobster l'americaine, peas, and creme brulee.  We'd made the creme brulee the day before, which meant it was in the refrigerator and nicely cold by yesterday.  Nearly all the cookery yesterday revolved around that lobster l'americaine: Julia Child's recipe, which we've made twice before with excellent results.

The first step was to boil those three lovely lobsters (photo at right).  We have a gigantic (25 quart) cauldron that Debbie uses for soup and chili; this made a fine boiling pot for our three ocean-going bugs.  Debbie had to leave the kitchen for this part; she's quite squeamish about executing lobsters for culinary purposes.  Generally her squeamishness is directly proportional to the cuteness of the animal involved, but that surely cannot explain her reluctance to off a lobster!  So that was entirely my job. :)  As usual, the lobster's claws were held shut with thick rubber bands.  I'd always removed them in the past, but it occurred to me that I didn't know if I actually needed to risk having a lobster pinch me (they can get you pretty good!).  So, being 2017, I googled it – and discovered that there is quite the debate about this on the intertubes.  One fellow waxed eloquent on how removing the rubber bands connected him with the lobster.  That article didn't help me at all.  Another, from a famous restaurant, revealed their dirty secret: they'd been boiling lobsters with rubber bands for years, and nobody ever noticed any odd flavor.  Another cook said she couldn't detect any rubber band flavor either, but that she just couldn't abide the thought of boiling lobsters with rubber.  I decided she had the right idea, and removed the rubber bands once more.  I escaped with all my fingers, despite the best efforts of the biggest one of the three.

The next step was the most challenging one: disassembling the boiled lobsters into their essential four parts.  Actually, this was less challenging than it was tedious.  It involved some muscles, though, and a few tools (tools - yay!).  The basic idea was to extract the four key components of the lobster for the purposes of lobster l'americaine: the meat, the shell, the coral (roe), and the tomalley.  If you've ever eaten a lobster, you know there's not much left after extracting those four elements: just the “guts”, which we discarded.  Some people use them in the lobster l'americaine sauce, too, but some of the intestinal tract is quite bitter and I prefer the milder flavor without it.  At left you can see the “parts” of our three lobsters after two hours of disassembly.  Starting with the big red bowl and going clockwise: the shells, chopped or torn into small pieces, the coral (roe) from the two female lobsters we had, the tomalley, and the meat.

The next step was very much like making soup stock from a chicken or turkey skeleton.  In our biggest frying pan I sauteed the shell fragments along with some celery, onions, and carrots.  After that I poured some cognac on the shells, and set it on fire.  Julia Child specifies this in her recipe without explanation; I'm not sure what that adds to the end result – but the end result is so good that I'm disinclined to mess with the recipe!  Then I simmered that mixture along with some vermouth, tomatoes and herbs.  The kitchen smelled wonderful during that process!  The frying pan didn't look very tasty, though, with all those shell fragments in there.  After about 45 minutes, we ran all the stuff in that pan through a fine-meshed strainer, squeezing out every drop of the juices that we could  What remained was an almost-clear broth that absolutely reeked of lobster.  We thickened it per Julia's recipe, with butter and flour paste, and colored and flavored it with some tomato paste.

After that, the rest of the recipe was really easy.  We sauteed the lobster meat in butter (a little bit of it accidentally fell into my mouth at that point), added the sauce, the coral, and the tomalley, got it nice and hot, then ladled it over some freshly cooked white rice.  We ate it immediately, and I forgot to take a photo of it.  Fortunately my brother Scott went back for seconds, and I got a photo of his round two.  The green herbs are a mixture of parsley and tarragon, and the white is grated Parmesan.

That was one heavenly main course.

For dessert we waited a couple of hours, then had the creme brulee that we'd made the day before.  We put some brown sugar on top, popped them in the broiler to caramelize the sugar, then sat down to eat them.  The custard was still cold while the sugar was hot, just as it should be.  This creme brulee recipe is one we got years ago from the Gastrognome restaurant in Idyllwild, California.   We'd had their creme brulee for dessert and loved it, and to our surprise they happily shared the recipe with us.  It's still the best we've ever had, even in my travels to Europe.


  1. It sounds yummy. I must visit you for this delicious dish (and to hug doggies ;) )

  2. Oh, we'd love to have you come back for a visit! And now we have FIVE doggies to hug!!