Saturday, December 31, 2005

lobster lust

I like crustaceans. They're a food that I associate with special occasions, but honestly, I can eat them any time, day or night. The Chinese (Cantonese) word for shrimp is "ha," and in their characteristic way of equating things on the flimsiest similarity, shrimp is symbolic of laughter and thus joy. Shrimps, crabs, lobsters – they all make me happy. They're fun to eat.

Today I meant to pick up a crab, but the grocery was out. They did have lobsters, however, and after overcoming a stab of pain from the wallet, I splurged $40 on a 3-pounder. (Weightwise, lobsters have a lot of overhead, so the dinky ones are probably more expensive for what you get out of them.)

I told the mate that about fifteen years ago, while attending a conference in Laguna Hills, CA, I had a wonderful dish of chunks of lobster in a lobster cream sauce over fettucine or linguini. Since then I had never found a similar dish, so I thought to try my hand at making it.

I let the lobster (named Wilson) sleep on the counter while the water came to a boil. I admit to getting a kick out of this. You set it on its nose point, with the big claws folded down away from the nose and angling toward each other. Hold it lightly in position to keep the balance while it settles. In about a minute or three, the tail folds in, the walking legs stop waving around, and the sucker just starts balancing itself, on those 3 points. It's like a lobster lotus, putting it into a zen state. The claim is that when they're calm they taste better, but I have no idea.

I diced a red onion and two cloves of garlic, and sauteed them in butter over low heat for the 25 minutes Wilson needed to become one with the steamer. I also defrosted a cup of chicken broth. I turned both off and started dissecting Wilson. To my surprise, he started splurching liquid all over the place, some of which I was able to save and add to the broth. (I read later that I should have let him rest five minutes, like a roast, to re-absorb the fluid.)

I dug for as much meat as I could eke out. Tail and big claws, of course, but also inside the body where the legs join (not to be mistaken with the gills which are tough and flavorless), and even bits from his walking legs. In doing so I found that the cream-colored scunch between the flesh and shell of a steamed lobster tastes quite good. It's not fat, but it looks like it, and it can be found inside the claws, tail, and under the carapace. I scraped up all this stuff and the more shredded pieces of Wilson and added them to the broth. I chopped the better pieces into chunks and set them aside.

The broth went in the blender and I added bits of the waxy red stuff (roe, I think) until it was a pink color like the sauce in the restaurant. That took most of the roe, and I probably should have thrown the whole thing in.

Returning to the onions, I restarted the flame, mixed in two tablespoons of flour, and let that cook a minute or three. Then the broth went in, thickening immediately. When this was smooth I added the lobster chunks, a splash of white wine, and a half-cup of heavy cream, which ended up being a little too much liquid for it. Let it simmer a few more minutes.

Threw it over linguini and the mate and I ate like royalty. There's enough for 4 servings total. The mate loves it when I cook :-) but does not like me naming lobsters.

If I was to do this again, I would use less chicken broth and add more meat to the blender mix. This would give the sauce more lobster flavor. I'm hoping that overnight the strong flavor in the meat will leach into the sauce. And more cream is always a good thing, isn't it?

No comments: