Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Lobster Thermidor with Potato Pancakes

This is my take on the classic French dish, lobster thermidor, which consists of lobster meat cooked in a creamy Sherry sauce, stuffed back onto the lobster tail shell and slightly browned on top with a parmesan cheese and panko crumb topping. The lobster thermidor is featured in Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." As you can imagine, the original recipe contains many components that I view as overkill and here, I will try to simplify it for the home cook but most importantly, also keep the flavors intact.

My biggest pet peeve from the original recipe is the way that it complicates the initial cooking of the lobster. Counting a whopping 14 ingredients that are used in the process of steaming the lobster, I decided to forgo everything and just let the natural sweetness of the lobster meat come through by itself. Using only a mix of white wine vinegar and water (1/2 cup vinegar per 8 quarts of water; enough liquid to cover the entire lobster), I boil the lobster for about 5 (1.25 lb. lobster) to 7 minutes (2 lb.lobster) depending on how large it is. This length of time is actually not enough to fully cook the lobster. I am just pre-cooking it first and finishing it in the sauce later. There is nothing more sinful than overcooked lobster meat. So, once the lobster's done, cook it down in cold ice water and shuck the meat, carefully preserving the tail shell for your presentation later. To do this, simply separate the body from the tail and using a sharp knife, cut all the way through down the middle of the tail. Remove the tail meat and wash the shell thoroughly. Cut the lobster meat into small pieces. You can leave the claw meat whole for a nicer presentation.

Next, let's start working on the sauce. Here are the ingredients that you'll need (for 2 1.25 lb. lobsters):

3 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 medium-sized shallot (diced)
2 cloves garlic
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup sherry
1 teaspoon dry mustard
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh tarragon (chopped fine)
1 cup shaved parmesan/pecorino romano cheese (gruyere cheese is acceptable)
Salt & pepper to taste
Panko breadcrumbs
1 bunch chives (for garnish)

Start by melting the butter in a deep pan. Next, sweat the shallots and then add the garlic. Cook the garlic for about a minute and then deglaze the pan with sherry. Add the heavy cream, together with the dry mustard and tarragon. Bring the sauce to a rapid simmer (not boiling) and then add the shucked lobster meat and cook for just under a minute. Turn off the heat and add 3/4 cup of the parmesan cheese. Stir to melt the cheese in the sauce. Add the lemon juice, taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Now, scoop the lobster meat together with the sauce onto the lobster tail shell. Top it off with some panko breadcrumbs and the remaining parmesan cheese. Turn you oven to "broil" and put the loaded tails in to brown. As soon as the tails start browning, remove from the oven. Garnish with some chopped chives and serve.

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