Monday, June 02, 2008

WFD? Warm Lobster Salad with Rhubarb, Fiddleheads, and Bacon

What's for dinner? Warm salad of Lobster, Bacon, Green Grapes and Tarragon, served over gently-poached Rhubarb and Fiddleheads.

Back in the day when I worked in a professional kitchen, I cooked lobsters by the tub-full around this time of year. It was nothing to add "cook and clean 20 lobster" to my already lengthy prep list every day and I had to be quick about it too. I may have winced the first few times, but eventually the task of grasping a live, writhing crustacean with my two hands and wringing him in two became as old hat as peeling potatoes.

Danny brought home a few lobster the other day, as they are at their most affordable right now, and it was fun to introduce Noah to them and show him the whole process. He was quite excited and couldn't wait to eat them.

If you've only ever dropped a whole lobster into boiling water to cook it, allow me to show you another way that, I believe, produces better results.
The tail of the lobster is more delicate than say, the claws, and doesn't need as long as a cooking time, so you start by separating the lobster into pieces. Here is a short video demonstrating how to do it (with Noah chirping away about how he wants to eat it).

Cooking your Lobster:

Once you have your lobster divided up into four parts (tail, head, claws and legs from claws), prepare a poaching liquid, or in French, a court bouillon.

1 large pot of cold water
1 carrot, peeled and chopped into 4
1 onion, same as above
1 generous handful of parsley
5-6 whole peppercorns
1 leek, washed and roughly chopped

Bring everything to a boil and let simmer a few minutes. Skim out solids and discard; bring your fragrant liquid to a boil again and salt generously, as you would for pasta.

Now you are ready to poach your lobster! Boil the claws for 7 minutes, the legs 6 and the tail 3 minutes. Cool everything and remove from shells.

This recipe just kind of evolved, but the result was amazing. I knew I wanted to use bacon and some fresh tarragon from my garden, but that left me with an incredibly rich and poorly balanced dish! I decided to add some sweet green grapes and do a compote of rhubarb for some tartness. Fresh lemon supremes added a perfect element of citrus. I wondered if I had too many elements, but in this case more was indeed merrier!
I also did a lobster butter using the carcass of the lobster (instructions below) and this is what I tossed the salad with. It was fantastic.

Warm Salad of Lobster, Bacon, Green grapes, and Tarragon with Poached Rhubarb and Lobster Butter
Serves 2

Meat from one poached lobster
1/4 cup green grapes, sliced in half
1 lemon

8 slices thick slab bacon
2 Tablespoons fresh tarragon
1/2 cup lobster butter (recipe to follow)
poached rhubarb (recipe below)
fiddleheads, pre-blanched

For the poached rhubarb:

2 cups apple juice
5 or 6 thin stalks of rhubarb, washed

Slice rhubarb diagonally in to 1 inch lengths. In a medium pot, bring apple juice to a boil. Add rhubarb and turn off the burner. Allow the mixture to cool for about 10 minutes and occasionally check the rhubarb for doneness with a knife. Remove when tender. Time will vary depending on thickness of rhubarb. Keep at room temperature.

For the lobster butter:

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 leek, washed and chopped
1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
4-5 whole black peppercorns
2 lobster carcasses, crushed slightly
1 pound butter, cubed

In a heavy-bottomed pot, sweat leek, onion and carrot in olive oil. With the heat on medium-high, add lobster carcasses and color them. Keep stirring the mixture, scraping the sticky parts off the bottom and being careful not to burn anything. When the carcasses take on a nice red color, reduce the heat to low and add the butter. As the butter melts, stir the mixture a few times.
Allow to cook very gently for a half an hour or so. Turn off heat and allow to
cool. Cover and place in the fridge overnight.

The next morning, heat over a low flame until the butter re-melts, strain through a fine sieve and discard the lobster carcases and vegetables.
You should have a beautiful, golden and fragrant lobster butter.

For the warm salad:

Slice whole lobster tail in half lengthwise (pictured above on the left). Roughly chop claws and leg meat. Cube slab bacon into 1/2 inch pieces. Fry until golden, dry on a paper towel and reserve. Cut lemon into supremes and roughly chop those supremes. Chop tarragon into 1/2 inch lengths.

In a saute pan, melt 2 tablespoons of lobster butter. Add the two tail pieces, cut side down and heat gently, basting with butter. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from pan a keep warm. Melt 1/4 cup of the lobster butter in the same pan. Add lemon supremes and swirl in the hot butter until they disintegrates into little pieces. Add chunked lobster, bacon, green grapes and tarragon to the pan and coat in the lemon-butter mixture. Heat gently while you add salt to taste.
Caution: do NOT cook over high heat OR more than a few minutes or your lobster will over cook and be rubbery and your grapes will turn to mush.
Turn off heat and reserve.

In another pan, saute fiddleheads in the remaining lobster butter.

To Dress:

Microwave the poached rhubarb to warm it slightly and place in the center of the plate. Place the 1/2 tails of lobster, cut side down, on top of the rhubarb. Top with half of the warm lobster and grape mixture and drizzle a little lobster butter around the plate. Add fiddleheads to plate any way you like and serve.


Anonymous said...

Wow..these are things I wouldnt think to put together but it looks amazing!

Rachel said...

OMG that video. Its almost scary!!!My stomach almost turned watching it.
But I do have to say that the lobster looks amazing and I bet the butter tastes phenominal. I know myself and I am so grossed out by even peeling a whole shrimp with eyes and legs. I know I couldnt kill my own lobster...or any other sea creature. I will have to leave that to talented people as yourself.

David Hall said...

Aimee, as always, an unbelievable recipe, so far probably my favourite recipe I have read about on any Blog anywhere! Brilliant and cannot wait to do it.

Thanks for the video too. Over here we have to be careful in case we upset people as to how things are killed. Ridiculous I know. Yours would be XXX rated! But it is brilliant and a great tip - of course, the clawas would take longer to cook and something I have never thought about. Top post, top video, top recipe and great to hear the nipper chirping away too!


Dan the Man said...

I have to say that this was one of the most amazing things that I have eaten, period.

You're the best, hon.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

I admit I'm a bit squeamish about killing lobsters -- and yet I'm not at all reluctant to decapitate the fiddleheads I find by the side of the road and along the edges of my own woods! It's such a treat to have fiddleheads. Their season is so impossibly short.

LyB said...

I haven't had lobster in such a long time. I love it though, and you're tempting me with all this deliciousness! I loved the video, by the way, Noah sounds so cute! :)

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

Thanks for the tips on cooking a lobster to perfection Aimee. Your son was too cute in the background. My own daughter eats very little meat but would inhale that lobster or an entire Pacific salmon:D

Patricia Scarpin said...

That is a posh and sophisticated dinner, my friend!

Aimée said...

Hi Miranda- Thanks. I'll make it for you sometime.

Hi Rachel-It IS brutal. Maybe I'll post a warning!

Hi David- You are so kind! Thanks for your great comment. Hope you give the dish a go.

Hi Danny- xox

Hi Lydia- Wow, you are lucky to be able to pick your own fiddleheads.

Hi Lyb- Thanks :) Now go get a lobster!

Hi Val- Glad you liked the video. There can only be one take, you know! Can't put the lobster back together!

Hi Patricia- Merci, merci

Hi Jenn- Wow, NS would have been amazing!

Emily said...

MAN! You ripped through that lobster like there's no tomorrow! Yowza. Holy cow. You should be on Top Chef. Really.

I liked your son saying, Are we going to eat-are we going to eat? I thought it was cute.

This sounds amazing. I haven't ever tasted fiddleheads before.

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

For Small that was like the equivalent of a new Disney film, he just watched it several times and is still chirruping in my ear - 'again, again, again... ' 'Why does Noah keep saying that he's going to eat them? Put it on again.'
David is absolutely right about how your video would go down here.

Anonymous said...

Aimee, just be certain, did you strike the brain with the point of the knife before taking the lobster to pieces ? I have seen them flap a few times so I figured they would resist getting ripped (then again they are crustacean with almsot no nerves)

Aimée said...

Hi em- Top Chef? Really , gee thanks. It's my favorite show, can you tell?

Hi Amanda- But people eat lobster, right? I am just preparing it, not enjoying killing it.

Hi Tipere- No, I never did that in the restaurant industry. Since you asked, there is little resistance.

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Brilynn said...

That's a combination of flavours I wouldn't have thought to put together but would love to try, it looks great!

Jennifer Jo said...

I showed this video to my husband last night and he was floored. You just ripped the head off like it was nobody's business! And here we thought we were all tough butchering our own chickens. Huh.

I liked you before; now you're kind of my hero.

Shaun Rehinsi said...

Like the cutie lil Noah, I too, want to eat it!!!

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