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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Duck, duck...lobstah!

I’ve been playing with lobsters for the past few days. Lobster is one of those things that I’m going to make the most of, given the time and expense to prepare it for dinner.

My routine goes something like this: Day One, cook and eat lobsters. Save some of the cooking liquid and the non-nibbled-on shells and put into the refrigerator or freezer. Day Two, make a broth using a recipe that is loosely based on Julia Child’s sauce for Lobster Americaine. Day Three (Part A), make soup out of said broth and lobster cooking liquid, along with any leftover bits from the lobster boil itself (sauage, potatoes, etc. – more on this later). Day Three (Part B), use the remaining lobster broth to (1) make Lobster sauce and freeze it (use it later on pasta, or atop poached eggs for a Lobster Benedict) and/or (2) freeze the rest of the broth for future use in soup, risotto, or paella.

Sounds like a lot of work? Well, yes, except that you can do the steps on different days, and four lobsters can end up feeding you for a week. Lobster is kind of a “duck of the sea” in that regard – you can keep using and reusing the same critters to create several meals.

The lobster carousel is a little different with each ride, depending on how I cook it and what else I make with it. (Note to readers: extensive cooking details follow, skip to the end if you’re not into it). This time, the lobsters were steamed with potatoes, corn (yes, corn in November – what was I thinking!), and linguica (a type of sausage), a là a stove-top “lobster bake.” I started by making a broth out of water, two bay leaves, a small handful of coriander seeds, a tablespoon of black peppercorns, a whole head of garlic (sliced in half, across its equator), a whole onion, and a piece of dried kelp (a.k.a. kombu). The broth was simmered for ~30 minutes, then the potatoes and corn went in. When the broth was boiling again, the four lobsters went in (headfirst) and the linguica was piled on top. About 30 minutes later, the lobsters et al. were served with oodles of clarified butter and exuberantly applied Old Bay seasoning. After dinner I saved the lobster shells, leftover sausage and potatoes, lobster cooking liquid (it was strained to get rid of the spices and whatnot), and even the extra clarified butter in the refrigerator

The next day, I sautéed the lobster shells in a little peanut oil in a very large pot over high heat. When they were good and smokin’ I added a large onion (chopped) and two stalks of celery (also chopped) and sauteed them for a little longer, until the onions started to soften. (If I’d had a carrot I’d have added that too). Next, ~1/3 cup of cognac and ~1/2 cup of vermouth went in to deglaze the pot, and then enough water to cover the shells. Finally, I added a can of diced tomatoes, two bay leaves, a tablespoon of dried tarragon (don’t leave this out, even if you’re not crazy about tarragon – it totally makes the broth) and a head of whole garlic, unpeeled but sliced open across its equator. Everything was brought to a boil and then simmered happily over low heat for 1-1 2/ hours. When it was done, I fished out the head of garlic and set it aside, then strained the broth and chilled everything in the refrigerator.

Still with me? I promise, this is worth it…on Day Three I started a soup by sautéing a large onion and one green bell pepper (both chopped) in a couple of tablespoons of the leftover clarified butter. When the veggies were soft I added a couple of tablespoons of flour and continued cooking, while stirring the flour and veggies around. Next, I added ~ 2 cups of the lobster cooking liquid (which was fragrant from both lobster and linguica), ~4 cups of lobster broth, the leftover linguica and potatoes (both diced into ½” pieces) and a can of cannellini beans (drained). Oh, and some extra sweet Italian sausage that I was cooking for something else that day. Since all the ingredients were cooked, the soup came together very quickly. I made a garlic spread by smashing the garlic that was cooked in the lobster broth with about an equal amount of the leftover clarified butter and a splash of lobster broth, for an extra lobster oomph.

One of my favorite things to eat is that lobster-garlic-butter, spread on toasted bread, and dipped into the rich, lobster-y soup. (When Conan was asked, What is best in life? He meant to say “Why, it’s lobster butter garlic toast in lobster broth, of course…”).

Back to the lobster tale: I simmered down some of the remaining lobster broth, added a tablespoon of tomato paste and thickened it with a mixture of flour and (you guessed it!) more leftover clarified butter – about one tablespoon of each, mixed together, per cup of broth – to make Lobster Sauce. And after all that, I still had a quart of lobster borth left to freeze and enjoy another day.

Total count from four lobsters: lobster dinner for four people; 1 ½ quarts of lobster-y sausage and bean soup; 1 quart of Lobster Sauce (enough for 4 breakfasts over eggs, or 2 pasta dinners); and 1 quart of lobster broth for a recipe to be named later. Plus too many yummy sounds to count.

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