This recipe is a work in progress. I mean, it’s not like I focus group this stuff.
Here’s the question: What protocol, however informal, do you follow when you want to cook something new?
Before I explain how I do things, let me reveal another tidbit about myself that should shock all of you. I am a stubborn, arrogant, pigheaded SOB incapable of believing anything I see, hear or read. Ever.
So, yeah, when I want to cook something new I typically go through a three-step process.
1. Comb the Internet as well as my vast array of crumb-besmirched cookbooks looking for the perfect recipe.
2. Reject everything I read because it just seems “wrong” for often arbitrary reasons I may or may not choose to articulate.
3. Wing it.
In my case I’m fortunate because my culinary repertoire tends toward “forgiving” recipes. Soups, braises, stew. Baked items with plenty of butter, veggies at the last minute that are perfectly tasty if either overcooked or undercooked slightly.
I guess am the kitchen equivalent of a spread-option quarterback.
But sometimes you don’t want to play it safe. While you might be able to guarantee “pretty good,” circumstances sometimes demand “outstanding.” A cheese souffle (this has become my standard), Or, more to the point, something that demands the purchase of an expensive, blockbuster main ingredient.
This was one of those times. I really, really wanted a Lobster Bisque.
The key problem for me to solve was “how much of what type of liquid?” I knew white wine would need to be involved. And chicken broth. And, because it was a bisque, some sort of cream would be called for.
I also had it in my head that lobster bisque needs to be seriously yellow. To me this means a bit of steeped saffron which means, yes, more hot water.
I no longer consider myself a bechamel ninja. I can do three tablespoons each of butter and flour followed by three cups of liquid, usually milk. This creates enough for a mac and cheese or some other sort of binding agent. What I’m not very good at, however, is extrapolating. It’s difficult for me to sort of adjust the quantities of butter and flour when I am not exactly sure how much of exactly what liquids I would be adding. Long story short, I got lucky.
Which brings me to the lobster tails.
I have never worked with lobster. In fact, the only time I remember actually eatinglobster was at this revolving restaurant overlooking Niagara Falls, while on a family vacation twenty five years ago.
Supposedly, retail lobster is cheaper this year. People are ordering less lobster in restaurants, which means that restaurants are ordering less, which means that there is actually a glut of the little guys up in the northeast, and prices throughout the rest of the country are starting to catch up.
Anyway. I had two “fresh” lobster tails. Actually, it was pretty obvious that they had been frozen at some point and allowed to thaw in the grocery case, which was fine by me.
But it led to an “eeu!” moment. It wasn’t quite Annie Hall, but when I unsealed them from their little packet, they each “twitched” for a moment. I watch too many zombie movies not to be unnerved when supposedly dead things are still animated.
And, like I said, I got lucky with the soup base. It was thick enough and yellow enough and had a good balance between the cream and the wine. I may need to tweak a little bit, so that 25 years from now when I make something like this again, I’ll remember what I did.
Lobster Bisque Version 0.9
Lobster tail(s) weighing a total of about 12 ounces. This should yield a cup and a half of meat.
3 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup of boiling water containing as many saffron threads as you are willing to part with
1/4 cup half and half
4 T butter
4 T Flour
1 large celery stalk, diced
1 large carrot, diced
1/2 of a large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic
Prepare the saffron-water. Pour the boiling water into a ramekin and add the saffron. Stir a bit, then cover. Stir occasionally as you continue with the recipe. The water should turn a luxurious yellow.
Next, prepare the lobster(s). I find it easiest to steam them briefly. In your soup pot, bring a little bit of water to a boil and set the tails on top of your steamer insert. Cover the pot, cook for about six to eight minutes. They should be slightly undercooked. Set them aside to cool.
Melt the butter over low heat in your soup pot. Add the onions and garlic, along with a little salt, and cook, stirring constantly, until they turn pale. Add the other veggies and cook for another few minutes until they, too, are soft.
Sprinkle on the flour, stirring constantly. You will reach a point where the mixture begins to smell “grainy” but there should be no large clumps of flour on the bottom of the pot.
Add the wine first, all at once. Adjust the heat to a high simmer.
Add the broth, saffron water, and paprika. Stir frequently until the mixture thickens.
Harvest the lobster meat. I used my poultry shears to cut open the carapace and a serrated melon baller to extract the flesh. (you can do this and the soup cooks) Add the lobster meat, lower heat to a simmer, and cook for another twenty minutes, stirring occasionally.
Serves two as a main course (with bread of course!) or four as a starter.
Forgot about the chocolate truffle torte. Yum. Recipe is here.