Sunday, December 2, 2012

Lobster At Home. Indeed.

One of the greatest gifts my parents gave me was the appreciation of good food.  I was one of those kids who always wanted to be older than I was and always wanted to hang with the big people. I was always pretty game for trying new stuff, especially if it was a 'grown up' thing.  Being named 'Elizabeth' gave my parents a secret weapon of sorts.  Any time I was demonstrating any hint of close-mindedness, all they had to do was pull this on me:  "You know, kings and queens eat/drink/do this."  This worked every time because I was convinced that the fact that the Queen of England was named Elizabeth was no mere coincidence.  

The Queen (unbeknownst to her) is responsible, in part, for my trying artichokes, asparagus, veal oscar and the king daddy of all...lobster.  I can't even begin to express how much I love lobster.  It's the most sublime food I can think of.  Of course, as we all know, it's expensive which makes it a very special treat indeed.  (At least if you live outside of lobster country, that is.)  Growing up, we had a friend who owned a very nice restaurant downtown and he served Danish lobster tails.  You can't even find these little darlings anymore.  Overfishing.  I wonder if the numbers are improving?  Whenever it was our birthday, or mom and dad's anniversary, a dance recital, or any other special occasion, we headed to Peter & Elizabeth's place for Danish lobster tails.  We always dressed up, we always used good manners and we always tripped out the adults in the restaurant. Of course, Maine lobster is the cadillac of lobster. They are more than food; they are an experience.

To cook whole lobsters at home is lots of fun.  It takes a little bit of homework for everyone to learn how to properly take the lobster apart and extract all of the wonderful meat. But, what a great lesson to learn!  Butter with a little lemon juice is all you need to enjoy a bright red, beautiful lobster...anytime, anywhere!  But, there are a zillion ways to enjoy this magnificent creature.  For my 16th birthday, I was allowed to invite two friends to go to the Summit Club (an old-school private club that back in the heyday was a pretty big deal.)  My two girlfriends and I (at my suggestion) all ordered Lobster Thermidor, I'm sure to my mom and dad's chagrin!  A few years ago I finally had the chance to visit Maine.  I planned a trip for me, my mom, sister and my aunt to go to Boothbay Harbor.  We pledged to eat lobster 'til we were sick.  Mom and I managed to have lobster for every meal except two while we were there!  So, I can tell you first hand that lobster chowder, lobster bisque, lobster roll, lobster salad, baked lobster, broiled's all good.  Damn good.  Indescribably good.

But, back to the present.  I can't remember the last time I splurged and bought lobster to cook at home.  However, the other day, I came across a true rarity.  Publix had lobster tails BOGO.  Yes, you read that right...BOGO lobster.  After I fell out of my chair, I got up, dusted myself off and got in the car.  It was true.  I stared at the seafood counter in disbelief.  When the nice man behind the counter said, "may I help you?" I think I stared at him blankly for a few seconds, probably causing him to wonder if he should just move on to the next person.  But, my voice came to me and I asked for four.  My daughter has never had the occasion to try lobster before.  I couldn't wait to present this to her.  But, I had more of an iffy shot than my parents did...there's not currently a Queen Vivian, so I don't have the same secret weapon they had.

Wait.  No so fast.  I do have one secret weapon in my arsenal.  To all of those who have laughed, ridiculed, or snickered about my (extensive) cookbook collection, let me say three magic words.  Lobster at Home. By Jasper White.  That's right!  I have an entire book about my favorite food of all time!  In fact, as long as I've owned this book there's been one recipe and photo in particular that I have read, studied and dreamed about.

Jasper's Pan-roasted lobster with chervil & chives
 Although this recipe calls for whole lobster, I knew I could just use the lobster tails that I had.  I searched for chervil...Whole Foods, Rosewood Market, even Publix to no avail.  Thankfully, Jasper clues his reader in to the fact that you can substitute fresh parsley with fresh tarragon, which is what I ended up doing.  OMG, people.  This recipe is on my list of new all-time highs.  The lobster was perfectly cooked (which was a relief because the cooking process is very fast and involved flaming cognac, so I was little nervous about taking too long and screwing it up.) The flavors of the sauce (herbs, butter & cognac) were divine and the aroma heavenly.  In fact, as I sit here typing to you, I am basking in the lingering scent of a success and delicious meal.  For me, this dish was a success for a few reasons: I executed it correctly, it was magnificent and my sweet 6-year old gourmet loved it.  She ate an entire lobster tail and was very complimentary.  Success!

The focus of this blog has always been more about story telling than posting recipes.  If enough of you tell me (below) that you're interested, I'll post it. (I know I've already been pretty long winded this evening.)  If you want to skip over me and just go get the book, you won't regret your purchase. It's a fantastic resource by a guy who really knows what he's talking about.  This is what to look for:

My apologies for not taking any photos of our meal tonight.  It went straight from the pan to the plate to the mouth.  No time to stop for a photo op.  If you make this recipe, you'll get what I mean! 

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