Monday, January 03, 2011

Everything's Better Avec Beurre

Happy 2011, readers! I wish you all the greatest and most delicious eating experiences throughout the year.

I always struggle with what to make that's super special on New Years Day. By then, we're all sick of the glazed hams and roast turkey (full disclosure: we didn't have either of those this year) from Thanksgiving and Christmas, cranberry sauce seems superfluous and I can't eat another bite of pumpkin pie by the time midnight on New Year's Eve rolls around.

My Cliff always asks me to make lobster, but I have a story to tell about killing lobsters. I just can't bear to hurt the things. I can steam mollusks and cephalopods, all of that stuff. It doesn't bother my to watch them turn into flavor and steam. Lobsters are different. Even crabs I can throw in a pot with a ton of Old Bay Seasoning and reap the rewards...but lobster...I just can't. Someday, I'll tell you why.

Cooking the tails is something completely different. The lobster is already dismembered and the dislocated tail is full of succulence and tenderness. They were at a good price at the grocer, and, so I could get my Cliff to stop the "you never make me lobster" talk, we bought two tails.

In culinary school, we didn't really use a lot of lobster. Imagine teaching lobster to 300 culinary students a day. Get's expensive, right? We'll call it $25 a lobster at about $12.99 a pound. Our chef instructors didn't trust us with the crustacean until the last few weeks of class, so I didn't get much practice with lobster dishes. I searched the web for a good recipe to tweak and found one I loved. Lobster Tail in Champagne Sauce. it sounded easy enough, and it delivered lovely flavor.

The most challenging part of the meal was, of course, the sauce. Sauciers in the best restaurants are often the most well-seasoned cooks (pun intended) with perfect—or near perfect—palates. "A good sauce covers many sins," we were told as young cooks.

The Champagne sauce was basically a classic French beurre blanc; a sauce I'd make 1,000 times before...just 5 years ago as a line cook. I wasn't sure I could still pull it off...but I did! I was so proud of myself. Further evidence that once a great cook, always a great cook. Once something is mastered, you can do it in your sleep.

Here's the recipe for our special New Year's Day dinner:

Lobster Tail with Champagne-Citrus Beurre Blanc.

The accompaniments are up to you, but I served smashed red creamer potatoes and steamed spinach.

Serves 2

2 large lobster tails, shells cut down the middle with scissors (careful!)

1/4 white onion (or 2 shallots), minced
1 sprig fresh thyme
1/3 cup Champagne or white sparkling wine
1/3 cup orange juice (no pulp)
2 tbsp. heavy cream
4 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cubed (yes, I bolded the word "cold" because it's essential)
salt and white pepper

Heat a medium-sized saute pan on medium-high heat. Add onion, thyme, Champagne, and orange juice. Bring to a simmer.

Place lobster tails in simmering liquid. Cover and steam until lobster meat is opaque in the center, approximately 7-8 minutes (depending on the size of your lobster tail, it might take a little longer or shorter, so keep an eye on the things).

Uncover and use tongs to remove lobster tails to a cutting board to cool. Allow the liquid to evaporate until about 1/4 cup of liquid remains. Turn off the heat if using an electric stove, but don't take the pan off the burner. If you're using a gas stove, turn the flame as low as possible without extinguishing it.

Add the cream to the liquid and swirl the pan, leaving it on the burner, until incorporated. Start by adding one cube of butter and swirling the pan until the butter is completely incorporated and disappears. As soon as the butter disappears, add the next cube of butter and repeat until all of the butter is incorporated. Once all the butter is in the sauce, taste and adjust for seasoning. The sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Strain the sauce through a fine-mesh sieve or strainer before serving.

Remove the lobster meat from the shell (careful!) and slice into 1/4-inch thick medallions. Pour sauce over lobster. Serve immediately.

1 comment:

Kristin said...

Sounds great! Yummmmmm. Now I wonder how this sauce would be on crab?