Monday, July 7, 2008

Lobster Consommé en Gelée

One of the most frequently asked questions I get about this project is, "What's the most expensive dish you've had to make?"

I hem and I haw because it's hard to know for sure. For some dishes, I already have a lot of the ingredients on hand, for others, I need to buy most of the ingredients from the outset. Some dishes require me to run the dishwasher three times a day, and others require me to power the oven and stove for hours at a time; those are costs that are hard to estimate, but they're costs nonetheless.

I think it's fair to say that anything involving foie gras tends to be on the pricey side, as would anything involving ingredients that need to be shipped overnight, or that I have to drive more than 5 miles through stop-and-go city traffic to pick up.

I am sensitive to the fact that food prices continue to rise, and I do understand what I cook for this blog may seem extravagant to some. However, I need to be honest here and tell you that I really don't spend time thinking a whole lot about what these dishes cost to make, because a) I love doing it, and 2) I don't mind spending money on food.

The way I see it, everybody has different passions and hobbies -- arts and crafts projects, decorating, working on cars, restoring furniture, buying lots of clothes and shoes, collecting novelty items, etc. It just so happens that food is a major hobby and passion of mine, so when I do my monthly budget, this blog becomes its own line item. I definitely plan ahead financially to make sure I can make these dishes with the best ingredients available. I'm also lucky in that I'm child-free and work from home, so money that might for others go to cover expenses related to raising kids and commuting, for me goes toward food instead.

Now, with all that said, I did do some back-of-the-napkin math on this dish and figured out that it probably is the most expensive one in the book, because it requires the use of 12 lobster bodies. That means, I had to buy and use 12 lobsters, then save their bodies (legs and trunk) to use in this dish. There's no lobster meat in this dish, so I had to make the lobsters, use the meat in other dishes (or eat it plain) and then save the bodies in the freezer (a seafood mafioso move, methinks) until it was time to make this dish.

When I was a few months out from making this dish, I had four lobster bodies already in the freezer. I had eight more to buy and make over the next little while until I could be ready to go with this dish. Luckily, my parents gave me a gift certificate to BlackSalt for Christmas to help defray the costs of this project -- which was such a generous thing for them to do (thanks again, Mom and Dad!). So, that helped cover the cost of some of the additional eight lobsters, but if you wanna do the math of 12 lobster bodies, each lobster weighing 1.25-1.5 pounds apiece, and whatever the going rate is per pound for fresh, live lobster, factoring in mileage to go get the lobsters.... then there you go.

So, knowing the costs involved, my mind turned to return on investment, or ROI as we businessfolk like to call it. I counsel my clients to think about ROI when they're making decisions related to marketing, advertising and PR, and so naturally, I hoped that by spending this much moolah on a dish, I would get a significant bang for the buck when it came to the end result. Would spending my hard-earned money then working for three days with 12 lobster bodies, some vegetables, and gelatin yield a near-orgasmic culinary experience? Would hilarity ensue when the neighbor's dog got ahold of the lobster bodies and dragged them to all four corners of my house? Or, would it be a huge catastrophe and require the assistance of the local fire brigade?

Let's just say: none of the above. However, because you crazy people love it when one of my dishes goes haywire or I nearly puke while eating it, I'll tell you now -- you're in for a hell of a read.

Now, where was I? Oh yes: I had four lobster bodies and needed eight more. Eight? Eight. If you've been a longtime reader of this fair blog, you know I kind of like to name my shellfish. I couldn't name all eight lobsters Celine (although I wanted to), so I had to think of a group of eight I'd be willing to sacrifice the lives of in the name of cuisine. I didn't need my lobster-naming strategy team for this one at all because, really, when you think of the number eight, you naturally think of The Bradfords!

So, meet:

David...


Mary, Joanie, and Susan...

Nancy, Elizabeth, and Tommy (aw, Tommy is karate-chopping Elizabeth over the head; oh, those crazy kids!)...

And, little Nicholas...

Eight is enough to fill our lives with love, indeed!

Now that you've met my eight new lobsters -- all of which were lovely and delicious in their various preparations -- AND we've gotten the obligatory 80s sitcom reference out of the way, let's take a look at what the 12 lobster bodies looked like at the start of this dish:

Kinda creepy-crawly, huh.

I put the lobster bodies in a large stockpot in which I'd already heated some canola oil. I forgot to quarter them, as the book suggested, but didn't realize it until I was done with the first day's work. Doy. Aaaaaaaanyway, I sautéed them for 2 - 3 minutes, then added chopped carrots, fennel, shallots and mushrooms:

I continued cooking this over medium-high heat for about 15 minutes, until the vegetables had started to soften. I then added vermouth, water, garlic, tarragon, and tomatoes, brought it to a boil, then simmered it for two hours. The smell of this pot of lobstery goodness made me incredibly happy. I kept finding reasons to go outside and come back in so I could marvel in the wonder of how amazing my house smelled while this was cooking. Mmmmmmmmmm.......

I strained the stock into a separate pot, pressing down onto the lobster shells to make sure I got as much liquid out of there as I could:

I threw away the lobster shells and the vegetables that were in the strainer. I poured the stock (about 4 quarts) through a chinois into yet another stock pot, and didn't force anything through this time so that it would remain as solid-free as possible. I let the stock cool to room temperature, then skimmed off the fat that had risen to the top.

I refrigerated the stock overnight and before I went to bed, I cooked some lobster roe so that it became lobster coral (which I needed for the clarification raft as well as the final plating) by putting it in a plastic bag, squeezing out all the air, then holding the bag in boiling water for a few seconds -- look at me, bein' all cool and doing something sort of sous vide:

I kept the coral in the bag until I needed it the next day.

So, now we're on Day Two of the Lobster Consommé en Gelée. Things had, so far, gone well and I was really looking forward to tasting what I thought was going to be a truly outstanding dish. The thought of the saltiness of lobster really concentrated in a consommé along with some whipped crème fraîche to complement the lobster... I was getting excited about how great this was going to be and what a freakin' superstar I would be among my friends and neighbors because they were going to fall all over themselves eating this and begging for me to make more. Sometimes, I can be a real idiot.

On Day Two, I prepared the clarification raft. You can't make consommé without clarifying it and removing all the impurities and other gunk, otherwise, it won't be clear, as all good consommés are. So, you make what is called a clarification raft, which, when it cooks, traps all the impurities and brings them to the top and out of your stock. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me show you the steps. First, I ground some carrot, fennel and onion in the food processor:

In a small bowl, I whisked some egg whites and lobster coral until frothy:

Then, I mixed the vegetables with the egg whites and lobster coral together in the same bowl:

I took the stock out of the refrigerator and put it on the stovetop. Before turning on the heat, I added the ground vegetables and whisked eggs to the stock, whisking it in to make sure there were no clumps. I turned the heat on low, and continued stirring with a wooden spoon until the liquid reached 128 degrees.

When the temperature reached 128 degrees, I stopped stirring and brought the stock up to a simmer. As the stock simmered, the solids rose to the top, began cooking, and formed a raft. so far, so good.

I cut a small hole on the right-hand side of the raft as a "breather hole" for the stock. The book tells you, and I know from having made consommé before, that you have to be really careful about the heat and not let the stock come to a boil, because you don't want the raft to break apart because it will cloud the consommé and not really do the job it's supposed to do. It's acceptable to have one or two spots where the stock simmers up through the raft, but no more than that. That's where I think I made a mistake in making this dish. I kept the heat so carefully moderated and watched that pot like a hawk for the hour it needed to simmer, but there was one point at which the stock got too hot and it bubbled up through and really broke the raft. You'll be able to see what I mean in the photo below, I think:
See how on the right hand side (at two o'clock on the diameter) it broke and the cooked egg white part of the raft bubbled up back onto the top of it? Grrrrr.....

After the hour-long simmer, I lined a strainer with some cheesecloth and began gently ladling the stock through it -- careful not to further break the raft, or get any big chunks of it in the ladle. I placed the strainer over a large saucepan, and ended up being able to strain a good amount of it (I had to tilt the pot on the stovetop to be able to get as much out of it as I could.

At this point, I had close to 2 quarts of consommé left. There was a little bit of fat floating on the top, so I did as The French Laundry Cookbook suggested and laid a paper towel on the surface, gently gliding it off to bring the fat with it. After three paper towels, I'd gotten it all.

I lined another strainer with fresh cheesecloth and placed it over another large saucepan, then slowly and gently poured the liquid through it to further clean it. I put the saucepan of consommé on the stovetop over medium heat and brought it to a simmer. I let it simmer for about 40 minutes, when it had reduced by half.


While reducing the liquid, I soaked some gelatin sheets in cold water:

I poured the reduced consommé into a bowl set inside a bowl of ice. I squeezed out the water from the gelatin sheets and stirred them into the hot consommé until they had fully dissolved. I let the consommé cool in the bowl set inside the bowl of ice, stirring every now and then, for about an hour. I covered the bowl with foil and put it in the fridge to set overnight so I could finish the dish the next afternoon.

We're now on Day Three of the Lobster Consommé en Gelée. Two semi-screwups: forgot to quarter the lobster bodies, and my raft broke. I fully expected to wake up, rub the sleep from my eyes, plod downstairs to make coffee and while the grinder was having its way with my coffee beans I'd check the lobster consommé and find it hadn't set. Then, I would cry, because there was no way I could start all over again. I'd end up just writing a post that said: Lobster Consommé en Gelée = STUPID and contribute a photo of it to FailBlog.

But, as you will see, the planets aligned and when I removed the consommé from the refrigerator, it was set and was full-on jelly. Lobster jelly. Just think about those two words together for a few minutes. Lobster jelly. Then, think of other kinds of jellies that you like and how you like to eat them. Then, think of lobster jelly in that way and try not to get squicked out.

The final steps before plating were really easy. I grated the rest of the lobster coral so that they would appear as tiny, individual eggs. Then, I whipped some crème fraîche by hand with my trusty whisk, and I defrosted some of the brunoise I had in the freezer and brought it to room temperature.

To plate, I put some of the lobster
consommé which was now "en gelée" (pronounced zhel-AY) in a little custard dish, then topped it with the crème fraîche, the lobster coral and some brunoise. If you have The French Laundry Cookbook nearby, please turn to page 33, where you will see what this was supposed to look like.

The rest of you can suffer by seeing what my version ended up looking like:

Hmmmmm. I'm hearing crickets out there as you try to come up with something semi-positive to say. It's no use. Really. I'm fine. I'm at peace with the fact that not only is this pretty unattractive, it was also perhaps the most expensive dish I've made probably ever in my whole life in terms of ingredient costs, AND one of the most disgusting things I have ever spooned into my mouth.

The gelée was not perfectly clear (it was close, though), but the lobster taste was so concentrated it was almost overwhelming, and not in a good way. Texturally, I had huge issues with it, which should come as no surprise. Textures are always my Achilles' Heel. I don't normally have problems with gelled things, but savory jellies and I will not be found sittin' in a tree, K-I-S-S-I... you know the rest of the song.

It absolutely kills me to type these words, but this dish was awful. I've been wracking my brains to come up with some redeeming quality about it, and the only thing I can say is that I probably would've enjoyed the lobster consommé not en gelée and still hot, like soup, before it was reduced during the final stage before becoming gelatinized. The way it smelled when it was warm and cooking was an absolute pleasure, and I think I would have been fine with a hot lobster consommé. No, I KNOW I would have been fine with that. Because I tasted it, and it was good. Cold and jellied? Not so much. Not at all, actually.

I'd planned to have my friends in the neighborhood over to taste it but after ten years of friendship, I know their likes and dislikes really, really well, and I honestly couldn't put myself through us all sitting around the dining room table trying to choke down a single bite while trying to be polite about it. I just couldn't. Talk about adding insult to injury. Wasn't gonna happen.

So instead, I made up another serving of it and took it across the street to my friend, Linda's, house because I knew her eleven-year old son, Grant, would want to at least taste it. He's really adventurous when it comes to food and is so great about trying anything once. Of course (and go figure), I walked into their house just as Grant burned the hell out of his hand on a cookie sheet while making snickerdoodles (yum!). As he ran his hand under cold, cold water and then wrapped it in an ice pack with a dish towel, I tried to be cheerful when I said, "Here's something that will take your mind off your BURNED HAND -- some lobster jelly! Woo-hoo!!!"

He grimaced but for a second, then said he'd try it. As I held the little custard dish for him BECAUSE HE HAD A BURNED HAND AND COULDN'T HOLD ANYTHING IN IT, he took a small spoonful of it along with some of the crème fraîche, squooshed it around in his mouth (since you can't really chew jelly), and spit it out into the sink. He asked me to get him a glass of water because HE HAD A BURNED HAND AND NOW MAJOR GAG-REFLEX SALIVARY ACTION GOING ON, and I did. He swished and spit and then drank the rest of the water without saying a word to me, but definitely giving me the stink eye which I more than deserved because I am such a good friend and role model that I forced a CHILD with a BURNED HAND to eat something I wouldn't take a second bite of. Does Dick Cheney know about me and my awesome torture skillz?

I called Grant the next day not only to check on his BURNED HAND but also see if, upon reflection, he had a different opinion about this particular dish and his response was "You know, this was worse than the oyster jelly because at least the oyster jelly didn't really taste like anything, but the lobster jelly taste just wouldn't go away for, like, hours and it kept reminding me how bad it was. FOR HOURS." He said the pain in his hand went away before the lobster jelly taste went away -- even after multiple teeth brushings and tongue scrapings.

If we remove the tripe from the equation (since technically it's not one of the official 100 dishes in The French Laundry Cookbook), this dish was my biggest disappointment. It really bummed me out. In fact, it's taken me a really long time to write this post, and I've been putting it off for awhile now because I was just so gobsmacked at how f-ing badly this turned out.

And now, I feel like an even bigger jerk because not only am I the ass who apparently tortures very young burn victims with my shiteous food, I've now made you sit through 33 photos and a kabillion words about my making a dish that I honestly can't recommend and suggest you not even think about wasting your money on. Unless, of course, you think you might like it, in which case, enjoy, and ew. I think I'd rather go burn my hand on a cookie sheet instead.

Up Next: French Laundry at Home Extra -- Q&A with Carol, Part One (totally gelatin-free!)

Resources:
Lobsters from
BlackSalt
Sheet gelatin from
King Arthur Flour's web site
365 canola oil

Produce and aromatics from
Whole Foods
Tarragon from my garden

Noilly-Pratt dry vermouth

Eggs from
Smith Meadows Farm
Vermont Butter and Cheese Co. crème fraîche


Music to Cook By: Styx; Paradise Theatre. Say what you will, this is a classic album. Yes, I can hear you snickering and rolling your eyes picturing me channeling my inner Dennis DeYoung while gelatinizing lobsters, but dude. Have you listened to this album lately? It doesn't suck. I know I'm maybe a little biased because I once spent a long car ride memorizing the album and can now sing the whole thing start to finish, including all the background vocals and fills, but I don't care. I love this album and you should, too. It should be mandatory for renewing your driver's license and, um, being able to vote that you master the hand claps in "Too Much (clap, clap) Time on My Hands." Right? Agree with me people, or I'm sending you my leftover lobster jelly in the mail. I mean it.

Read My Previous Post: French Laundry at Home Extra -- Q&A with Susie Heller

55 comments:

tanzerpdx said...

PLEASE tell me you at least had to LOOK UP the eight Bradford names and that you didn't actually REMEMBER them :)

Chris said...

As always a treat to read your post...
I also find it comforting to know that the execution of Lobster Jelly is as unpleasant as the concept.
Would I try it if I was having dinner at the French Laundry?... if I am ever so lucky yes...
Will I run out and buy 12 lobsters and try to make it myself?
Not now!

Looking forward to the next interview.

Cheers

Jane Boller Stroebel said...

Oh, I'm so sorry. But it does make for a good story.

At least you're not spending all your money on crack.

I'm just sayin'.

Anonymous said...

Two things:

1st Thing- I'm the first poster!!

2nd Thing- Is this the longest post to date?

Cheers.

P.S. If I had a reservation at the FL could interest you in a platonic dinner date?

Anonymous said...

Loved the article. Thanks!

aloha

TLR
Maui

Sally Forth said...

Okay, okay I agree with you about Styx, only because of the threat of Lobster jelly combined with what the Australian Customs Office would do. I'm so sorry this sucked for you. I can't wait for the Q&A.

Elise said...

Oh my, all that work, with all those lobsters! It pains me to think about it. Really. I hate disappointing recipes, but when you've spent 3 days that's exponentially worse.

Hilarious story though, love the kid's reaction.

Sunday Cook said...

What a public service you are performing for us! I've been trying out recipes from TFLC and always check in with you first to see if I should bother.

I live North of Boston - we can actually buy lobster bodies at our fish market for about $1.00 per torso. Cheaper, but it doesn't let you experience the pleasure eating 12 lobsters' worth of meat.

I recently made the Pea Soup with Truffle Oil (served cold). 'twas fabulous. Just saying.

Styx rocks.

G W said...

I got this sort of jelly (Was Langoustine I think) with a canape at restaurant Gordon Ramsay in London. My fellow diners thought it was quite nice. For me it was the only thing that wasn't sublime, in fact I thought it sucked to be honest. Good to know I'm not the only one to think that it doesn't work.

Kim said...

Ew.

Karen said...

Shnasty. Savory jellies are shnasty. I've never got the whole...jelly, aspic, whatever thing.

When I got near the end of this post, and realized that the lobster jelly WAS the dish and not just a component in the dish, I got a little queasy.

Can you backform it into a lobster bisque ingredient? It's such a sin for all that work to go to waste.

I hope you at least enjoyed eating the lobster MEAT from the Bradfords...

ntsc said...

Actually it sounds like a good dish for a hot summer eve. Think I'll pull some beef consume out of the freezer tonight, add powdered gelatain and have it with dinner later in the week.

spooneroonie said...

Ew is right. Yeuch! While reading this, I kept thinking about the jellified remains of my leftover roasts and how awful that would taste.

You made your celebrity neighbor (I don't care what you say, Grant Tipton Day is genius and I try to celebrate it as often as possible) squish this down while he was injured?

I'm afraid to make the trip next month, for fear of what you may force me to eat.

Jennifer said...

You just confirmed my suspicions about lobster jelly. Down right EWWWW GROSS! Sorry that I can't be more eloquent, but it gets my point across.

I have to say that I was feeling so bad for Grant and at the same time laughing about him brushing his teeth several times in an attempt to get rid of the taste. Perhaps you can make him a salmon dish the next time he decides to have a Grant Tipton Day. Make it up to him you know.

P.S. I think that I've heard TK say that lobster jelly is "terrific" on tripe.

amber said...

sorry it sucked so badly :/

but, the upside is the hot consomme was good, no? so, the moral of the story is to just stop before you get to the gelatin. :D

Robert S. said...

Carol - well, they can't all be slam dunks...

Oh, and thanks for song-poisoning me with the "Eight Is Enough" theme for the rest of the day...aarrgghh!

RT said...

It may be blasphemous to say, but what was Keller thinking? Savory jelly as a whole dish doesn't make sense to me.

Styx was totally underrated. Better than Foreigner or Journey. But I can't believe you resisted the urge to play the other junior high dance tune from those years: Rock Lobster. Especially as hopes for this dish went: down...dowwnnn...doooowwwwn

Charlotte said...

Ah -- happy memories of taking my first serious boyfriend to visit these friends of my grandmother. The house was totally flea-infested (in that batty old rich horse-people way) and for a snack, Mr. C came out with a tray of jellied beef consomme. My darling boyfriend gave me the stink eye, the I'm-eating-brown-jello-in-this-crazy-house-FOR-YOU look. It was priceless.
And is there any way to use the jellied lobster as a soup base? Seems a shame to waste it, particularly if, as you say, it was delicious before being reduced so much.

learp17 said...

Too funny, as always. And I must agree with you and the other commenters - crustacean jelly sounds eeeeeeeuw. Blech. You went to such pains and to be rewarded for all that hard work with nothing but nasty fish goo just seems so unfair.

Beques said...

Oh, shit!

Maybe the lobsters were getting revenge on you for naming them after the Bradfords. I envision Dick Van Patten, wearing a wizard's hat with stars on it, in a little cloud over your head casting spells on this as you worked on it.

And don't beat yourself up over the neighbor kid with the BURNED HAND. If anything, you lessened the pain in his BURNED HAND by distracting his attention away from it and onto his SHELLFISH JELLY COVERED TONGUE. So it's not a complete loss. And hey, you also got to sorta-sous vide something! The closest most of us mere mortals will ever get to that is boil-in-the-bag crap. So celebrate failure. I raise my glass to it EVERY DAY!

Anonymous said...

This article is intriguing, and raises the following questions for me:

1) I hate wasting food, so what does one do with the raft when it is discarded? Could you feed it to a dog or to chickens?

2) I live in Seattle where we have Dungeness Crabs for about $6/lb, but lobster must be flown in and are much more expensive. Does anyone know how interchangeable these insects of the oceans are?

-Sean

John Jezl said...

That post was so funny I was shaking with suppressed laughter and had tears welling up in my eyes. I think my coworkers think I'm insane now. Actually that's a given, but now they now think I'm even /more/ insane.

I sympathize... you work for days on a dish only to have it come out disappointing. I dread that with everything new, but we suck it up and try something else, right? Though it's tough to not end up wondering what, if anything, you did wrong or if there was a misprint in the recipe (as there was with the Gewurztraminer jelly gelatin quality).

pdxblogmommy said...

ner ner ner ner ner ner ner ner...
repeat.
Test...what song is that?

And ew....

And is Abby Bradford just a faceless soft shell crab?

CA Sailing Lady said...

Jellies should only be made with fresh fruits and berries... just sayin'.

I've despised savory jellies since I was a kid and forced to down jellied beef consomme at my grandmother's. Then again, she believed in Olive Loaf. 'Nuf said about WASP cooking (an oxymoron if there ever was one).

Your posts always make me laugh - and get me in trouble at work! Love the blog and am so bummed you're almost through the book. Can't wait to hear if you'll be on TV!! Keep up the good work.

rainbowbrown said...

Oh my. Am I a bad person for thinking that feeding an injured child lobster jelly is one of the funniest things ever?

Scott Deane said...

Did you tell the little guy how bad the gelee' was before you forced it on him?

When one of my more adventurous meals rears it's ugly head, I always have my girlfriend give it a go without prior warning. For some reason, it's almost as gratifying to watch her recoil in horror (see: adding experimental number of nuclear hot peppers to asian shrimp skewers) than it is to watch her enjoy one of my meals.

StewartFip said...

I nearly fell out of my chair when you listed Paradise Theater as music to listen by.

Pay attention people. This is required listening. Seriously.

Sorry the jelly tanked! Adventures like this yield periodic disappointments. This is how we learn to cook better...and to just not make Lobster Jell-O. (sell THAT Bill Cosby!)

anon said...

I saw the Paradise Theater tour when I was about 16 years old and was blown away. Still sing along with all the lyrics. I remember fighting with my brother over my cherished concert t-shirt. You know, the white shirt with the tour logo on the front and the black 3/4 length sleeves. So cool...

Megan said...

Uhm. I sort of think it looks tasty...?

lis said...

Thank you for one of the funniest (yet gag-inducing) posts I've ever read on any blog...ever! I've never laughed so hard and felt so nauseous at the same time.

Anonymous said...

Just read your interview on dcist.com. Great preview for Q&A here.

SallyBR said...

I am with Karen on this - when I realized that the jelly WAS the dish, I went into hyperventilation mode


I feel your pain, what a frustrating experience!


I admire you for going to the end of it, and having the endurance to compose another great post about it

AJ said...

Seriously...you are my hero. I've been lurking here for a while but this post forced me to say ... Brava! You may be disappointed in this result, but your journey through this dish and all the others you've done has been Honorable with a capital H. Lucky for us you also have a smashing sense of humor ... I actually went out and purchased the cookbook this week-end and am making the gazpacho today. We'll be toasting you at dinner tomorrow.

Mel said...

bummer!If this had turned out better I could have given it a shot. I'll be a a dinner this weekend where I could come home with 100 Lobster bodies if needed...
any other uses for Lobster bodies?

Grant said...

Hey peeps, it's Grant

However bad you think the lobster jelly is, it's actually ten times worse.

My hand is unusable and I typed this with my tongue. Which still tastes like lobster jelly.

peace out

spooneroonie said...

@Grant--

I'm sorry to hear that the hand is still sore, and feel even worse to hear that you still cannot rid yourself of the evil pain that Carol has caused to your palate. You must get her back for that one.

Call me; we'll chat.

Cameron S. said...

I laughed heartily throughout the entire post. Great stuff. This is one of the best ever.

Alex said...

I had a bad feeling about this as soon as I saw the face-huggers from Alien looking malevolent in that dish. Face hugger jelly - yeeuch.

I feel so sorry for you after spending all that dosh. How devastating.

Can't stop laughing about the boy though, perhaps it was worth it just for that.

Lauren Knoop said...

I know your lobster gelee wasn't what you expected, but maybe a little Lemon Jelly (a great British duo) would brighten your day. Your Music to Cook By is always one of my favorite parts of the posts! Sorry your crustacean creation didn't work out!

Victoria said...

Sounds terrible. But the raft really looks cool.

I still laugh over the three Celines. Un, deux, trois.

chrislehrich said...

What a sad day! I hate seafood jellies myself, so I feel your pain.

What kills me is that you threw away the shells and probably the rest of the jelly. DON'T! You can salvage something wonderful. Here's how.

Chop the shells into medium-sized chunks and throw them --- all of it, except the tomalley, can go in --- into the Kitchen-Aid. Add 2 sticks of butter. Use the paddle attachment and run at low speed until creamed, then turn to medium-low and run about 15 minutes to half an hour until the butter is salmon-colored. Scrape into a deep saucepan and add a couple quarts of water. Bring to a strong simmer, then cool and chill in the fridge. The chunks will sink, and you can remove the butter in a block. Bring it to a simmer, and once most of the water is gone strain it very fine in a chinois. Freeze in ice cube trays, then remove to a ziploc baggie in the freezer, where the butter will keep about a month.

Now add some water, let's say about 50%, to the jelly, and bring to a strong simmer. While it's simmering, cook shallots in a little olive oil, then add arborio rice and white wine and make risotto with the stock. At the last moment, fold in one or two cubes of the butter. Lobster risotto heaven! Note that you can still do this without the butter, and it'll be great.

If the jelly isn't all gone, please do this and restore your faith in all things lobster. I'm from New England and this is a matter of serious importance to us up here.

Alice Q. said...

Sorry to hear that one didn't go so well, but your average is pretty good nonetheless! Just got the book, and looking forward to trying some of the recipes with your blog to hold my hand! ;-) Cheers!

jbl said...

What a shame; perhaps Ferran Adria's warm gelatine technique could have helped this one? Regardless thank you for all the work you do. BTW...Paradise Theater is an excellent album!

jnifferjuniper said...

excellent post
you and Grant suffered for our reading pleasure...if that is any consolation.

oh, and STYX still rock!My sis and I see them every year.

Grumpy Misanthrope said...

Styx, while enjoyable, is NOT better than Journey! Not at all!

Oh, and I don't like lobster all that much so lobster jelly doesn't appeal to me at all.

Alicia said...

Great story. The expense of the dish bites. I'm so sorry.

Sarah said...

Wow, the phrase "lobster jelly" is still banging around inside my head. Thank you for doing us all a service and executing this extremely expensive, extremely questionable dish for us :)

Ryan said...

I feel a little better knowing how hard it is for you to admit that a dish just isn't up to snuff. I had the same problem with a lamb brains dish, and I just hated to say that I didn't like it.

Here's hoping the next recipe is back to the usual high standards.

Elke said...

Grant......come on forgive poor Carol...you done us all a huge favour :-)

Elke

Tara said...

I laughed through this post because it was told in such a funny way, but I also cringed and got that yucky feeling in my stomach because I KNOW how much it sucks when you spend so much time on a recipe and it turns out to suck major ass. Plus, it was expensive to make, too, so that really sucks. I for one hope you got good and drunk after this was all said and done. You deserved it. :-)

Chance said...

Hey Carol,
Long time listener first time caller.
Last year, I too have heard the siren song of both Keller books. I'm making Bouchon's Quiche Lorraine tonight (well, technically I started last night with the crust, but I digress).

Turns out I made the lobster en gelee months ago and had a not similar reaction. But similar in a small point.

For me, it was tasty but only in an extremely "law of diminishing returns" sort of way (to paraphrase Mr Keller.) If you only ate a spoonful and such, it was very nice. But after a while it was just too much.

And yet, I was able to net a plus out of the recipe for two reasons.
#1, it taught me a lot, and forced me to do procedures and steps I had never done before. So I felt I was in a master class in which I was learning brand new ideas.

#2. The first night, we (my wife and I; yea, she's the lucky one) only ate one "amuse bouche" size eating of the dish and both thought, yea, ok; different, not bad, but hardly worth the price or the effort. SO....

I warmed up the gelee in a pan and added cream to it. Reduced a bit, til it had just that kind of concentrated bisque flavor and served in very tiny cups. You know, those kind of super tiny espresso one or whatever (I hate coffee so it's all greek to me).

Anyway, If you haven't tossed it, and you do like creamy lobster tasting soups, it's a great save in my book!

Best,
Chance

LtlAmerica said...

I am trying to catch up on your blog reading from end to beginning and laughed so hard that I have tears running down my cheeks. You are so amazing!!! What a disappointment for the dish, but what a treat for your readers.

Tony Greaves

wcw said...

To the few still reading: after my wife and I went to Ron Siegel's Iron-Chef-reenactment, the local paper printed his winning lobster recipes (and this was the original IC when it was still good). The idea it appears with these body recipes for the normal cook is not to buy a dozen bodies. Get on the phone. Call fishmongers who stock lobster and restaurants who serve it. Eventually you will find someone who sold or served just tails and claws and will sell you your dozen bodies for a pretty small price.

And while gelee seems overkill, Siegel's lobster custard was a-freaking-mazing. Try it if you can; I bet Nexis will deliver you the recipe.

Siegel was, of course, once a Keller sous chef.

Paula Pereira said...

As tortuous as cooking and eating this dish may have sounded you really did a wonderful job of bringing the reader right there with you and it was a great ride. thank you.

Sonya said...

I stumbled upon your blog and this particular post from another cooking blog. Wow! I'm glad I read this post! You made me smile and laugh! Thanks!