Monday, May 14, 2007

Butter-Poached Maine Lobster with Leeks, Pommes Maxim, and a Red Beet Essence

Summer's almost here, and you know what that means!?!?! Yeah, me neither.

Oh wait, that's right. LOBSTER!

After the two desserts I just did out of the French Laundry Cookbook, I was hankerin' for something a little more substantive. So, I chose this lobster dish because it sounded really good. Since the recipe called for three 2-lb. lobsters, I thought to myself, "how excellent would it be for my fantastic FrenchLaundryAtHome readers if I came up with hilarious names for the lobsters?" I'm so customer service-oriented it's scary sometimes, isn't it? (don't answer that)

But naming the lobsters wasn't as easy as you might think:
Moe, Larry and Curley = too obvious
Winken, Blinken and Nod = too boring
Peter, Paul and Mary = too old
Star Wars 1, 2 and 3 = too confusing
Barry, Robin and Maurice = one of 'em is already dead, so no
Alvin, Simon and Theodore = yeah, um, no

Finally, I settled on Britney, Lindsay and Paris. But when I picked up the lobsters from the market, I noticed they were from Canada, so I knew I had to honor their heritage and name them after famous Canadians, but more importantly, famous Canadians no one would be upset about when their lobster counterparts kicked it in a tub of boiling water.

With that in mind, I called members of my lobster-naming strategy team who came up with the following suggestions:

Terrence, Phillip and Baby Ike
Bryan Adams, Alanis Morissette and Shania Twain
Wayne Gretzky, Brian Orser and Elvis Stoyko
Gordon Lightfoot, Geddy Lee and Neil Peart
Pamela Anderson, Avril Lavine and Neve Campbell
Dan Aykroyd, Rick Moranis and Jason Priestley
Paul Shaffer, Martin Short and Kiefer Sutherland

Wow, Canada. That's a lot of people from your country we find sort of annoying. You might want to work on that. (KIDDING. I love you, Canada. You're awesome. Really, you are.) But the most obvious lobster name choice was apparent from the very moment "name one Canadian you can't stand" came out of my mouth, and without fail the first name that sprung from everyone's lips was:

But I had three lobsters, so what to name the other two? The awesomely evil and lovely Catherine suggested I name them Celine, René Angelil, and René SHAAAAALLLLLRRRRRRLLLLLLLLz, but we decided it was too mean to name a soon-to-be-dead lobster after a 3-year old child who did nothing wrong in being born to annoying parents.

So, with that, I give you:



And, Celine:

Now that you've met my three Celines, let's watch them become dinner. Here's the before shot of the lobsters in their tub:

Then, I boiled some water, and added a bit of distilled white vinegar to the water before pouring it onto the lobsters:

They steeped for about two minutes, maybe three, and looked like this:

I removed the claws and put those back in the hot water to steep for another five minutes.

The reason the lobsters are cooked this way is because you cook the meat just enough to get it out of the lobster, but it's fully cooked by POACHING IT IN BUTTER, which I'm sure you can guess is something I was looking forward to. I'm not exactly the master of subtlety, as I'm sure you're quickly learning.

While the claws were steeping, I removed the meat from the tails, cleaned the bodies and froze them for stock, and then removed the meat from the claws. I don't have photos of all these stages because they had to be done quickly while the lobsters were still hot. And, I had lobster goop all over my hands and didn't want to funk up my camera. I'm sure you understand. You'll see the various lobster pieces when they are POACHED IN BUTTER later on in the process, I promise. By the way, did you know that I had to POACH the lobster IN BUTTER for this recipe? Because I did.

Let's get some of the other steps out of the way first, one of which is the beet essence. I simmered a cup of beet juice for about an hour until it reduced to about 2-3T of glaze. I did this a few hours before serving while I was on a conference call with a client. To finish it for the dish, I brought it back up to a simmer and whisked in the butter, red wine vinegar and lemon juice. It's the first thing on the plate, so you'll see the final product in my plating photo.

The next thing I prepped a little early were the Pommes Maxim (which originated at Maxim's in Paris). I peeled and very-thinly sliced two medium Yukon Gold potatoes on my mandoline and tossed them in melted clarified butter until they were well coated. I laid them on my Silpat in an overlapping fashion and sprinkled them with salt. I then baked them in a 300-degree oven for 45 minutes. Here are the before and after shots:

And now for the leeks. First, you take a leek (HA!)... okay, I'm twelve. Sorry. I thinly sliced about a cup and a half of leek rounds (white and light green parts) and blanched them. After their ice bath, I warmed them in a saucepan and added the tomato diamonds, chives, brunoise and butter. I won't bore you with photos of the prep for the brunoise or tomato diamonds because you've seen them before, but here is what the final leek mixture looks like:

And now.... the pièce de résistance (or "piece of resistance" as Sandra Lee says). Lobster poached in butter. I mean, LOBSTER POACHED IN BUTTER!!! WHOOOOO-HOOOOOOO!!!!!! Earlier, I took the lobster meat out of the refrigerator and brought it up to room temperature, and then put it in one layer in a large saucepan and covered it all with butter in which it poached for about 6 minutes. Here's the lobster before it went into a saucepan full of butter for poaching:

To plate, I started with small spoonful of beet essence:

Next, went a heaping spoonful of the leek mixture:

That was topped with some lobster tail and a claw:

Last, a piece of the Pommes Maxim on top:

If you think this looks good, I wish you could be here to taste it. All of you. But bring your own lobster, I'm not Thurston Howell the Third. The lobsters were a lot of work, that's for sure, but this was all so delicious -- the combination of beets, lobster and potatoes are gorgeous. Doing the lobster this way makes it so tender that it almost feels like it's undercooked, even though it's not. Big thumbs up, all around.

In closing, I leave you with a moment, a memory, a song to commemorate the awesomeness that was this dish and the lobsters that made it all possible: R.I.P Celine, Celine and Celine. R.I.P. You were delicious.

Up Next: Dungeness Crab Salad with Cucumber Jelly, Grainy Mustard Vinaigrette, and Frisée Lettuce (ooo, a Thomas Keller-Nancy Drew mystery on this dish: Frisée in the recipe title, yet no frisée in the recipe; I blame Stephen Durfee. I always will. For EVERYTHING.)

Brands Used:
Canadian lobster from Wegman's in Hunt Valley, MD
Produce from Central Market House in York, PA
Biotta beet juice
All-Clad cookware
OXO Mandoline

Music to Cook By: Thomas Dolby; Retrospectacle: The Best of Thomas Dolby. I forgot how much I love this album; and, it really stands the test of time. This music is just as good as it was twenty years ago.


Anonymous said...

Silly DinerGirl, you're supposed to put stuff INto the refridgerator to get to room temperature, not take them out!

BUTTER is always a good thing. It looks delish, as always.

I've never cooked a Celine at home, and I have to they really "scream" when you cook them?

Sara said...

Ok, that lobster video is hilarious. I just called my husband into the room so he could experience it.

Anita (Married... with dinner) said...

If I hadn't already told everyone I know to read your site 2 days ago, this would've clinched it. Holy cats, that's funny.

Anonymous said...

I hate when people exaggerate, but I really did just pee my pants just now. I had a baby four months ago, but still. You are beyond funny. And that video! I'm emailing all my friends about you right NOW!

Anonymous said...

Dude. Hi-freakin-larious. Good job on the lobster dish, too. Poaching it in butter, eh?

Anonymous said...

As a one-time Mainiac, I long for lobster and this sounds fabulous, but I really would love a description of what the beet does for the lobster flavor. Beet is about the last thing to come to mind if I think of sea bugs.

Red Photography said...

I just discovered your blog, and I love the premise. As the proud owner of the French Laundry Cookbook I have only ever managed to make the roasted tomatos and the parmesan crisps. I attempted demi glace, but almost burned my apartment down.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure that "I Scare Myself" would have been an appropriate Thomas Dolby song here.
Because, what I find really scary is that you know the names of the Dion clan, which even I, a Montrealer, was unaware of.
BTW, you've convinced me to make every recipe in the Bouchon cookbook. Because my motto is to aim low.

Anonymous said...

That? Is the funniest thing I've seen all year.

Anonymous said...

I am, as always, honored to be considered part of the lobster-naming team. I'm sure Celine, Celine, and Celine tasted fantastic!

Please tell me that the lobsters gave a little claw/chest thump in honor of their namesake.

Anonymous said...

Did you steep them alive or did you off 'em prior to it? I've never actually done lobster before (I live in the midwest...we're a little short on oceans 'round here), but I've heard varied opinions on that.

By the by, after all the talk of POACHING IN BUTTER, no money-shot of the actual act?

Regardless, you've knocked another one out of the park. Keep it up!

Unknown said...

Hilarious video of the lobsters!!! As always your posts are funny and entertaining and the finished product looked like is was delicious.

Anonymous said...

i am one lucky neighbor! this was close to the best. my 16yo even appreciated this elegant dish. (and my dog went wacko as i held the live lobster in his face!!) touch of sweetness from the beet juice with the deliciously sauted lobster. THANX SO MUCH!

Anonymous said...

Goodness gracious, I couldn't get past the photo of just the lobster on the plate. My hand refused to move and my salivary glands went into overdrive! Good job. With the crab salad, I know the recipe says to slide your hand under the ring mold but I find it easier to manage with a fish flipper or spatula. But I'm clumsy anyway. And I've been wondering, are you going to do the pig's head? Because i would totally give you a pass on that one.

shuna fish lydon said...

Can I go on record here as saying that a woman named Lisa Nakamura "created" that potato concoction for this dish?

Usually I'm the only one butch enough to cook lobsters among my friends. But after learning the beurre monte way, there's no going back...

Carol Blymire said...

Spoonie - the Celines didn't scream when I poured the water over them. One of them twitched quite a bit, which as Catherine pointed out in her comment must've been the Celine tribute of banging its fist against its chest. I've done lobster the other way and it didn't scream.

Sara, Anita, Roscoe, Sarah - thank you, and welcome! Glad you liked the video.

Judith - I, too, thought before I made it that lobster and beet sounded strange. I'm a lobster purist and am fine just eating it out of the shell without any butter. But lobster with beet essence on the plate was divine. Without sounding corny, it was an interesting mix of sea and earth and each brought out the other's sweetness in a new way and really complemented one another. The beet wasn't overpowering and I think it made the lobster taste more rich without it being too rich. Does that make sense? I'd like to do a lobster Cobb salad this summer and add in some diced roasted beets. That's how good the combination was.

Hey Pretty - I almost burned down the house making the goddamn tomato powder for one of the dishes, so you're in good company.

Michel - I love that song! And yes, as frightening as it is that I know the Dion-Angelil clan by name, what's more frightening is knowing I can call my friend Catherine and she'll know exactly who I'm talking about and will also refer to the son using the drawn out SHHHHAAAAARRRRRRLLLLLLLLz for his name.

Corycm - First, thanks for the Serious Eats pimpin'. Second, yes, I steeped them alive. I had to do a dish one time in which you put a live lobster into a deep saute pan filled with other things, and that little guy just twitched and twitched and it grossed me out. This way was much better, and better tasting. And, sorry for no money shot of the lobster in butter. It was difficult to photograph and I was also starting to plate the other elements at the same time since I had a dining room full of hungry friends.

Sally Forth - thanks for the tip on the crab salad. I was wondering how I was going to do it. I haven't had much luck using the ring molds, so I may just have to wing it on this one, too.

Shuna - Hey! Thanks for the clarification re: Lisa. And I agree re: cooking lobster this way. I don't think I'll ever do it the old way again. I've never tasted claw meat that was so tender. The tails were a teeny bit tough on the small end, but overall, this is the way to go. I just need to be quicker in tearing apart the bodies and removing the meat. Two lobsters at once would be no problem. It was the third that made it a bit of a pain in the ass.

Anonymous said...

A joy to read while goofing off at work, as always. Did you know that Maxine Saltonstall actually wrote a sort-of cookbook called First You Take a Leek? It's out of print, of course, but hilarious if you can find it.

Anonymous said...

This Canadian is now highly amused and overstimulated. Next time you need to name a Canadian ingredient you're about to cook please ask. You have done well, however, by starting with Celine. By the way, butter poached lobster is incredible, and your post certainly does it justice.

Anonymous said...

You're the best!

I can't wait for the next installment.

Jaye Joseph said...

I love this dish. It's the first thing I made from the book. Where did you find beet juice? I ended up having to use borscht and wish I'd had beet juice instead. I got sweet, but no earthy.

And you're right. This is the only way I'll ever cook lobster again. POACHED IN BUTTER!!!!

Anonymous said...

When I worked at Per Se, this dish was one of my favorites to serve. The picture on page 130 does it no justice! We served it in wide bowls so that the potatoes covered everything underneath. When you cracked the shell, the shock of bright red beet juice practically shrieked. I really loved that dish - thanks for the memory!

Good luck with the crab salad - I bet the title was supposed to read "micro greens" instead of frisee.

Speaking of Serious Eats, have you watched the Amateur Gourmet's lobster video? Seems it's lobster movie week - I adored both.

Anonymous said...

thank you, thank you, thank you for naming all three of them Celine. Now my morning has started off right. Shoot, the world is so right in the universe, I might not need a cup of coffee. Oh wait, I know why the world isn't perfect, because I didn't get to eat this magnificent meal. Great, now I'm depressed. Now I might need TWO cups of coffee. Just kidding ;-)

Utopia Burning said...

Best. Blog entry. Ever.

I'm now starving, and I'm allergic to shellfish. Thanks.

Also, on behalf of Canada - my apologies. And you're welcome.

(Great. And Yum)

Anonymous said...

ok - this was great.
you rock.

Unknown said...

Good golly that was hilarious. I had a h*cking Celine song stuck in my head and my good friend Anita here turned me on to you via this post. It didn't unstick Celine, but boy did it make me feel heaps better. Merci! You're a laugh riot (and a damn fine chef, it seems).

Julie said...

Went to French Laundry on Wednesday, and luckily, this was on my 9 course menu. Probably my favorite dish of the nine offered there that night. It was simply heaven! Your dish looks like it would come close I'm sure.
Well done!