Monday, September 17, 2007

Five-Spiced Roasted Maine Lobster with Port-Poached Figs and Sautéed Moulard Duck Foie Gras

You guys!!! Thanks for all the email, comments and kind wishes for my loser move Sunday night. I feel so stupid. People burn themselves all the time, people are starving in Ethiopia, blah, blah, blah.... my hands were throbbing and stinging too much to type last night and I feel like a wuss. And, thanks to these burns, my George Costanza hand-modeling career is OVER... OVER, I tell ya.

Therefore, this dish shall henceforth be known as the Fig Sauce Pan of Death dish. Or, maybe Carol Needs To Learn to Use One of the Six Hundred Forty-Two Oven Mitts and Hot Pads She Already Owns Because Really How Stupid Can One Person Be, I Mean, Doy? dish. Oh yeah, you read that right. I'm bringing back "Doy." "Duh" is overused. I'm goin' old school. 1981, represent! (And no, I did not take any Percocet before writing this, shut UP.)

I'm going to spare you photos of my charred, blistering, bandaged left hand because it's gross and I feel like such a dorkus malorkus. The right hand is less damaged, but equally as unphotogenic; but enough about me... I've numbed myself sufficiently enough to type, so let's talk about the food. Because in spite of all my dumbassery, this dish was good. It had three of the most decadent, luxurious, delicious, gorgeous, succulent ingredients known to man: lobster, foie gras and figs.

The first thing I did was prepare the foie. Wanna see it? You know you want some foie porn, dontcha?

Prior to this photo, I removed the foie from its packaging, rinsed it under cold water, and patted it dry. Next, I put it in a ziploc bag and filled that bag with whole milk so the foie could soak in it for 24 hours:

The next day, I removed the foie from the milk, rinsed it under cold water and let it rest under a damp towel on a cutting board until it came closer to room temperature. Then, I deveined the sucker. Again, no photos of this because it was late at night and I didn't want to drag anyone out of bed to come photograph what I find to be a totally awesome and satisfying process, but that most normal people are repelled by. Some other time, I promise.

After I deveined the foie gras and put it back together, I rubbed it with a combination of white pepper, salt and sugar, put it in a container, covered it tight with plastic wrap pressed against the foie, and then wrapped the whole container in plastic wrap and kept it in the fridge until I was ready to cook and serve it the following evening.

Another prep step the day before serving was to get the lobster meat out of some pesky little lobsters. The recipe called for three lobsters, but I forgot that when I stopped by BlackSalt, so I only picked up two lobsters. One had bigger claws than the other, and he pounded the other one in the head repeatedly for no apparent reason, other than he was being a bit of a dick. Thus, let me introduce you to Ike and Tina:

Tina succumbed to the hot water bath quickly, but Ike put up a fight until the bitter end. I will confess that he was still moving around a bit when it was time to "de-meat" him, even though he had steeped for the requisite 3 minutes. Funny, I thought Tina would have been the survivor. This is one case in which life did not imitate art. Or something like that. Anyhoo, wanna see the gorgeous lobster meat? Man, it's a food porn two-fer tonight:

I put the lobster meat on a paper towel-covered plate, sealed it with plastic wrap, and put it in the fridge overnight.

I spent Sunday afternoon with my family and some family friends celebrating my mom's, um.... forty*cough*something*cough*th birthday... and when I came home, it was time to finish the prep and get the dish ready for serving to my lovely friends and neighbors. Little did they know they were going to play the role of triage nurse the moment they walked through the door. But I digress. Shocker.

Want some fig porn? You know you do:

Those are my lovely black mission figs sitting in the Saucepan of Death, soaking in the port wine as I brought the liquid to a boil. I removed the pan from the stovetop, covered the figs and port with a parchment lid, and put the pan in a 350-degree oven for an hour and a half. While the figs were poaching, I prepped the other fig sauce ingredients. Here's the chopped bittersweet chocolate and ground coffee beans:

I took the lobster meat out of the fridge to bring it to room temperature and get it ready for the final poaching. IN BUTTER. Aw yeah, baby. You know how I roll. Well, how Thomas Keller rolls.

I also got the squab spice mixture ready -- I know... squab spice on lobster? Made me gag at first, too, until I thought about it. It's not actual squab, but what you might use in a squab dish: quatre-epices, peppercorns, cloves, coriander, and cinnamon. Wanna see the before and after?

I sneezed eleventy million times after taking a big whiff, but yowza... this smelled good, and I knew it would be great in this dish.

When the figs were done poaching in the oven, I removed the saucepan USING AN OVEN MITT and plucked three figs out of the pan and put them in the blender with the chocolate and coffee. While they were puréeing, I used tongs to remove the other figs from the saucepan and put them in a bowl. I kept the blender running, removed the plastic center cap on the lid and reached for the fig-poaching saucepan to pour in the reduced port wine and stood there for a second while I realized that the handle was melting my flesh, let loose a very long, loud, creative string of expletives, semi-dropped the pan, saved it with my right hand which was also NOT COVERED WITH AN OVEN MITT because I thought the reduced port wine was more important than the health and well being of my hands which, hello, perform my clients' work all day long, which may or may not sometimes include long-ass run-on sentences like the one I'm writing right now. Now that I'd burned both hands and sworn so much I made George Carlin look like the Dalai Lama, I hastily wrapped both hands in bags of ice AND KEPT COOKING because I am a freak.

I put the puréed mixture into a small saucepan and mixed in some minced shallots and chives, stirring with an ice-covered hand. Whew. I was done. Or, was I. NO I WAS NOT. There was foie gras to be made. Oh joy, oh bliss, oh happy day.

I got the foie out of the fridge, cut six three-quarter-inch slices, scored one side of the slice, seasoned with a bit of salt, and gave the neighbors the ten-minute heads up to come over for a tasting. It's at this point that I remember OH CRAP I FORGOT I ALSO HAVE TO COOK THE LOBSTER MEAT. I quickly covered the foie so it didn't oxidize in the next five minutes.

I melted two sticks of unsalted butter (no time for beurre monté at this point) in an ovenproof (HA!) skillet and sprinkled the lobster with the squab spice and some salt. When the butter had melted, I put the lobster into the skillet and heated it over low-medium heat for about two minutes. I then put it in the oven for 4-5 minutes to finish cooking.

When the lobster was done, I USED AN OVEN MITT to remove the saucepan from the oven. Do you know how hard it is to put an oven mitt over a hand that's wrapped in ice? It's NOT EASY, PEOPLE. But I survived. I channeled my inner Tina Turner and persevered. We don't need another hero. We don't need to know the way home. I'm nothing if not your Private Dancer. I mean, I'm Simply the Best. Ew, no. Oprah. Gag. Whatever. Insert your own Tina Turner reference here.

Okay, lobster is done. Figs are poached. Fig sauce is ready. The neighbors are walking in the door, and it's time to cook the foie slices. I removed the ice packs from my hands and focused on the foie gras. At $75+ a lobe, you don't want to mess with it. Too long in the pan and it turns to liquid. Fifteen seconds on each side, and done. The house smelled so amazing at this point. Time to plate.

First, some fig sauce, then a fig or two topped with some lobster and a splash of melted butter. Last, but certainly not least? A slice of sautéed foie gras.

This dish was rich, decadent, sweet, hearty, salty, fragrant, juicy, warm, and earthy... perfect for the crisp fall weather that we woke up to Sunday morning. My eight-year old neighbor wasn't enamored with the idea of foie gras, until I demonstrated how you can put a piece of it in a hot saucepan and it will be reduced to liquid in less than a minute. That cracked him up. He tried a bite, but didn't love it, and declared the lobster too spicy. The ten-year old tasted the foie, didn't gag, and tasted some more. The adults loved it. Port-poached figs are delicious -- I can see making those and serving them over homemade ice cream. As always, the lobster and foie were delicious. I will say that if I made this particular dish again, I'd use half the amount of squab spice on the lobster. I think it was too much... at least for my enjoyment. All in all, this dish was really, really good. Even though I had to eat it holding my fork between two ice-packed hands.

On an international-relations, call-the-UN note, we had a few small bits of leftover foie gras which we let the dogs try. My neighbor's dog is a bichon frisé, and he loved the foie. Of course he did; he's French. I have a nervous snarky dachshund who looked at the foie in his bowl, rolled his eyes at me, coughed like he was hacking up a lung, and walked away. Germans hate the French even on the canine level. Who KNEW?!

Up Next: Chocolate Cakes with Red Beet Ice Cream and Toasted Walnut Sauce or Tête de Moine (the sauerkraut takes five days to make; I'm on Day 4 and my house smells like feet. Good times...)

Foie Gras from Hudson Valley
Figs, shallots, chives, 365 butter from Whole Foods
Lobster from BlackSalt
Illy coffee
Ghirardelli chocolate

Music to Cook By: "Happy Happy Fun Time" -- perhaps my most favorite iPod playlist EVER. And, no it's not named after a bad Japanese game show, although it sounds like it, doesn't it? You know when you've been in a pissy mood, and a song comes on the radio or shows up in the iPod shuffle, and all of a sudden you're smiling and shaking your butt, dancing around the house (or in your car) like a doofus, rendering you completely unable to remember why you were such a stick-in-the-mud a few moments earlier? Yeah, well, make a playlist of those songs and call it "Happy Happy Fun Time." Here are some of the selections from this playlist that were standouts today: The Heat is On (Don Henley); Stop (Spice Girls); Man in Motion (from St. Elmo's Fire); The Real Slim Shady (Eminem); Barracuda (Heart); Tennessee (Arrested Development); Freedom (George Michael); Wild Thing (Tone Loc); Everybody Wang Chung Tonight (duh); Chori Chori Gori Se (Jimi Mistry); Keep On (Brady Bunch); Got to Get You Into My Life (Earth, Wind & Fire). I'm sure my neighbors looooove when this playlist is on, my windows are open, it's dark outside and the lights are on inside so they can get the full effect of my simultaneous lead and background vocals and exquisite choreography. Why I'm not famous, I'll never know. Meanwhile, maybe the big lesson here is less Happy Happy Fun Time = less Burny Burny Hand Time, no?


Anonymous said...

She's back, baby, and better than EVUH. You should burn your hand more often.


Anonymous said...

Carol--I've never been more proud of a friend I've never met in my whole life. Kudos! The dish looks wonderful (and I'm not a foie fan)and you kept on chugging after your little blistering problem.

Mental Christmas List Note: Carol has 642 hot pads and needs not another. Neither does she need the Brady Bunch Family Album.....

Anonymous said...

That looks delicious! I'm sorry about your hands and I'm amazed that you can be in that much pain and soldier on,bravo!

Jo said...

Good work in the face of disaster. Gotta question the the paint peel in the kitchen from the streak of swearing? My husband really believed it happened in our last kitchen when I burned my thumb. I think the kitchen was ready for it's remodel at the time, and wanted to speed the process up. Come on, if you were a kitchen wouldn't you want your pro stove, and granite everywhere, including the window sills?

Another question, did you apologize to Ike and Tina, when you put them in the pot?

On international pets. Italian Greyhounds do not turn their nose up at foie gras.

Anonymous said...

I love your blog! I really hope you hand(s) heal up quickly - the dish looks amazing.

Jim said...

I envy your neighbors and wince for your hands.

And now I'm curious whether or not I can still buy foie gras anywhere in Chicagoland...

Christina said...

Hope your hand(s) heal quickly! Great entry as always.

Erin said...

Sorry to hear about your hands! You are a trooper to keep going in the name of foie gras (TOTALLY justified). Great post, as usual! I took your advice and am now obsessed with Eric Hutchinson, and may be going to his concert this Saturday! Thanks for the tip, and keep those ice packs on...

Unknown said...

You say you want to bring back "Doy"..
I was thinkin' more along the line of "Dufuss"
Just teasing.
Perocet aside, you never seem to recommend any drink pairing for you dishes.
A great vintage of the Coasts of Beaune or even a flexible Champagne to marry with the Foie Graswould be nice.

hope your "boo boo" gets better soon!!

Great Post

Anonymous said...

Ooh I feel your pain with the burnt hand. I was roasting asparagus in a hot oven, and I took it out to put a bread crumb and parmesan topping over, then grabbed the hot pan to put back into the oven. I did have a flash of genius though, b/c I discovered that a cold soda can is the perfect thing to soothe a burnt hand. Just hold it like normal, and when it warms up, put it back in the fridge to drink later!

Kevin Kossowan said...

Aaaagggg. Thanks for the foie gras photo. So jealous.

domestic_valerie said...

I can not tell you how often I've done the same thing--the grabbing of the hot-out-of-the-oven-pan-handle. *ouch*

Many, many, kudos to you for saving the poaching liquid and finishing the dish. Looked a-mazing.

Anonymous said...

Nice save! I mean, that sucks about the burning, I've done that before too, but the thing I really need to comment on is the last bit, with the dogs? HI-larious! I love it... snarky little dachshund. LOL
thanks for making my day a little brighter.

Anonymous said...

I just stumbled upon your blog--I did the exact same thing when making this dish--TK should put a warning in. My burns weren't as bad but the port splatter went all over the kitchen.

Great dish--I even got it to stack right. BTW, you can get your foie for a much more reasonable from (in Philly)

Gladys said...

Loved reading about your experience. I am making it this weekend. Where do I get squab spice?