I got the lobsters from the Fishery on Saturday afternoon, after lunch. When I went to buy them, I misunderstood the price quoted to me by the man behind the counter, and exploded. I had misplaced the decimal point in the price, so it was high, but not that high. Another customer in the store straightened me out about the price and assured me it was a very good deal. I hustled the lobsters home and popped them into the refrigerator where they could stay alive until I got ready to cook them.
Here is a video on how to kill a lobster. It illustrates the challenges involved.
All this takes time. It helps to have an assistant chef who will dice the vegetables while you are dismembering the lobsters. Bob very kindly chopped and diced and measured while I swore and stabbed and yanked.
The recipe requires the cook to cook the lobster in the shell in a frying pan. Luckily, I had seen this on a Julia Child rerun, so I knew it was possible. You need big frying pans and you fry the pieces in the shell until they turn pink.
My daughter called about half way through the butchery. I sat down in the big arm chair in the addition to talk to her. After about 10 minutes, I looked into the kitchen and noticed with horror that the lobster on the counter, which I had thought I had dispatched prior to picking up the phone, was still among the living.
"Shit! The fucking thing is still alive," I yelled, and leaped out of the chair. "I gotta go," I told my daughter. The next day, she asked me what had been still alive. "That was the best way to end a phone call," she said.
I made several amendments to the recipe. I don't mess with lobster guts. It's one thing to wrench the claws off a living creature that may not be dead. It's another to cook with guts that I may not be identifying correctly. I also did not remove the solids from the sauce, squeeze them and discard them. It was a perfectly fine sauce with chopped onions, carrots, celery and mushrooms floating around in it. The recipe gives the cook the option of removing the lobster meat from the shell or allowing the diners to do it. I decided I had done enough work, and my guests could do the rest.
It says scald the cream. I put a saucepan with the cream in it on a low heat and asked Bob to keep an eye on it while I went off to take a shower. I explained that it would be scalded when a ring of tiny bubbles formed around the edge of the pan.
When I came downstairs, the guests hadn't come yet. Shortly thereafter, the doorbell started ringing, and I got involved in taking coats and pouring wine. When I came through the kitchen with the drinks, I happened to notice that the cream was boiling and ready to overflow all over the stove. Shit! I turned it off, and it suffered no ill effects, but it's better to watch the cream so it doesn't overflow.
I had moment's pause when it came to the sherry. I am a sherry snob. My children say I am an all around snob, but that is not true. Sherry, yes. I learned to drink sherry in Madrid when I was 22. As far as I am concerned, it's amontillado or nothing, and Dry Sack or nothing. I imagine there are other brands of sherry that I would find acceptable. Sandeman had an appealing label and I remember snickering at Gonzalez Byass, but keep cream sherry away from me. One of the more embarrassing moments of my entertaining life was when I bounced downstairs after my shower, greeted the guests who had entered in my absence and went to get a drink.
"What are we doing with all this Harvey's Bristol Cream?' I inquired, my voice dripping with scorn.
"Len and Carolyn brought it for us," my husband said.
"Oh, how nice of them," I said mendaciously.
Anyhow, after spending a three figure sum on lobsters, I didn't feel like spending another $20 on decent sherry. I went to a large bottle of cheap sherry I bought last spring for a dessert. I tried it to make sure I wasn't poisoning my guests, and it wasn't very good. But the sauce tasted fine. Sherry, even cheap sherry, and cream can't be beat.
If you want this to be gluten free, you can use gluten free flour to thicken the sauce. I used potato starch because we have a good size package of it due to the Passover baking.
5 one-and-one-half-pound lobsters
12 tablespoons butter
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon paprika
3/4 cup chopped onions
1 cup finely diced carrots
1 cup chopped celery
1 teaspoon thyme
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup chopped shallots
1 cup dry sherry
2 cups finely chopped mushrooms
4 cups heavy cream, scalded
2 tablespoons flour (gluten free if necessary)
1. Plunge a knife into the thorax or center portion of each lobster where the body and tail meet, to kill the lobster.
2. For each lobster, break off the large claws and sever body and tail. Crack the claws and cut the tail section in two crosswise. Split the body lengthwise and remove and discard the tough "sac" near the eyes. Remove the coral and tomalley, or liver.
3. Place all corals and livers in a mixing bowl and add three tablespoons of butter. Set aside.
4. Melt three tablespoons of the remaining butter in each of two heavy skillets large enough the accommodate the lobster pieces and claws (can be done in one pan if a large enough one is available). Dividing the ingredients between the pans, sprinkle lobster with salt, pepper and the paprika and stir. Add the onions, carrots, celery, thyme, bay leaf and shallots and cook, stirring, over relatively high heat until lobster turns pink. (Relatively high heat would be a 6 on the gas gauge on my stove.)
5. Add the sherry, stirring. Add the mushrooms. Simmer, covered, ten minutes.
6. Add two cups of the cream to each of the pans.
7. Remove the lobster from the skillets. Discard body pieces. If desired, the lobster meat may be removed from the shell. Or the meat may be served in the shell. In any event, keep the lobster covered and warm until ready to serve.
8. Combine the two pans of sauce and simmer, uncovered, fifteen minutes. Strain and press as much liquid from the solids as possible. (Or just leave them in.)
9. Using the fingers, blend the butter with the livers and corals. Turn off heat from sauce and stir in the mixture. Knead the remaining butter with the flour to make a beurre manie and with a wire whisk incorporate into the sauce. Heat to thicken and add the lobster. Cook without boiling until lobster is heated through. Serve piping hot, with boiled rice. Makes six servings.