Friday, January 2, 2009
Butter Poached Lobster
A cooking method that has become trendy with lobster, as of late, is butter poaching. Although neither new nor groundbreaking, thanks to Thomas Keller, and numerous write-ups of his butter poached lobster at the French Laundry, this technique has become the preference of many chefs. It involves killing the lobster, breaking it down, making stock then sauce from the shells, cooking the tails, claws and knuckles, removing that meat from it’s shells, vacuum sealing the meat with butter (a zip lock bag will suffice) and reheating the meat sous vide style while the accompanying side dishes are prepared. I recently taught a class showcasing this and decided to prepare the same dish for my New Year’s Eve dinner.
Butter Poached Lobster With Butternut Squash Risotto
Using a knife, pierce the lobster’s head and split it to kill it. Tear the tail from the body and wrap it in plastic film, keeping it shaped in a ball. Tear the arms off the body leaving the claws attached to them. Place the tail and claws in a pot of simmering water. Cook the claws for 4 minutes then remove. Allow the tails to simmer for 2 more minutes, remove and allow them to cool. Using kitchen shears extract the meat from the shells, leaving the tails and claws whole, and vacuum seal or enclose in a zip lock bag, squeezing as much air out as possible, with 1 ounce butter for each portion (1 lobster per person) and set aside in the fridge. Meanwhile make the sauce.
Spiced Lobster Sauce
4 T vegetable oil
Head and shells from 6 lobsters
1 fennel bulb chopped
3 cloves garlic chopped
4 shallots chopped
8 knobs ginger sliced
4 dried red chilies
10 Tarragon leaves
4 T tomato paste
10 dried shrimp
1 star anise
2 T lemongrass paste
1 c Dry white wine
8 cups water
4 Kaffir lime leaves
8 cilantro sprigs
3 cups diced butternut squash
In a large pan cook the shells with the oil on medium high for 5 minutes. Add the other ingredients except the water, squash, coconut milk cilantro and lime leaves. Mix well, cooking for 5 more minutes, then add the water.
Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit 10 minutes more and strain through a fine mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer 20 minutes. Puree in a blender or with a wand mixer, pass through a fine mesh strainer, adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper and set aside, keeping warm.
Heat a large pot of water to 145˚ F (63˚ C) and place the bags of lobster meat in the water as you start preparing the risotto.
Butternut Squash Risotto
6-8 cups chicken broth (use vegetable broth for vegetarian option)
8 T unsalted butter, divided into 2 Tbsp and 6 Tbsp
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cups butternut squash, peeled, and finely diced
2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat broth in medium sized saucepan and keep warm over low heat. Melt 2 Tbsp of butter in a large saucepan; add onion and butternut squash. Cook over medium heat until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add rice to onion and squash. Cook 1 to 2 minutes. Add wine. Cook, stirring constantly until wine has been absorbed by the rice or evaporated. Add a few ladles of broth; just enough to barely cover rice. Cook over medium heat until broth has been absorbed. Continue cooking and stirring rice, adding a little bit of broth at a time, cooking and stirring until it is absorbed, until the rice is tender, but still firm to the bite, about 15 to 20 minutes.
During the last minute of cooking, add remaining butter and Parmesan. At this point the rice should have a creamy consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Plating and Garnish
1/2 cup chopped chives
1/2 cup vegetable oil
Place ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth then pass through a fine mesh strainer. Have this made ahead and ready to serve. Use a squeeze bottle to dispense.
4 ounces watercress
2 T olive oil
2 tsp rice wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix together right before plating
Remove the bags of lobster from the waterbath, cut off the tops and slide the meat into a pre-warmed bowl or pan. Place a serving spoon of risotto in the center of the plate, using a ring mold if you prefer a more symmetrical presentation. Surround this with sauce. Place a lobster tail in the center of the risotto and put the claws on each side with the knuckle meat around each claw. Drizzle chive oil in little pools onto the sauce. Place a small pile of the watercress salad on one side of the lobster tail and a clutch of radish sprouts alongside the other, then serve.
The Wine? Since it was New Year’s Eve, we wanted something bubbly and served this with a Blason de Bourgogne, Cremant Rosé, A sparkling wine from Chablis in the Burgundy region, made with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes, using the Champagne method. However, this dish would pair really well with an Alsatian Gewürztraminer or Riesling.
This might seem like a lot of work but it really isn’t much more trouble than preparing lasagna. This cooking method for the lobster will insure that the texture, moisture and flavor will not be diminished and your guests will remark that it’s the best lobster they have ever had.