The name and the idea of dealing with live lobsters may be rather intimidating a picture to take in; while I probably would have agreed that it does take a little more effort and time in its making, it really is not a hard one to make. With just a little patience and putting aside enough time to spare, making this lobster stew may be one that you can breeze through, creating an especially comforting bowl of stew within your very own comfort zone at home. And the best thing of all - this is one that you can and really should make way in advance of serving time in which the taste greatly intensifies especially when left to chill overnight. The end result? A milky broth appearing to be slightly orange in color, so genuinely infused with the flavor from the lobsters and other subtle seasonings in the making - a flavor truly defined with time.
Adapted from the recipe by Scott DeSimon
2 1 1/4lbs lobsters (female if you have a choice, for the roe), scrubbed clean
4 tbsps unsalted butter, divided
1 large shallot, minced
1 tbsp brandy or Cognac (I had it substituted with dry sherry)
2 sprigs thyme
2 cups half-and-half
salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
a dash or two of Tobasco hot sauce
1. Bring 3 cups of water to boil in a large and deep stock pot. Add in the lobsters, cover and cook until the shells have turned red while the meat has yet to cook through, about 5 minutes. Remove the lobsters and let cool, reserving the cooking liquid for later. When cooled down enough to handle with hands, *crack the lobsters to separate the meat from shells. Work over a large bowl or rimmed baking sheet to especially catch the delicious juices. Reserve the shells.
2. Cut the meat into bite-size pieces. Slightly larger chunks should do better - greater texture with a less chance of having them broken down when put to simmer later.
3. Combine the liquid from shells with the water from cooking in a large bowl. Have 3 cups full of this liquid set aside. If you managed to get hold of female lobsters, remove the roe and set aside. (The roe sac is dark green when raw, red when cooked. These lobsters are half-cooked, so the roe should be somewhat green with slightly pink edges.) Whether to discard the soft, pale green tomalley or have them included into the stew is optional. I included just a small portion of these sinfully rich tomalley.
4. Melt half the butter in a wide heavy pot over medium heat. Add in the shallot and cook, stirring occasionally until the shallot is soft, about 5 minutes. Add in the lobster shells and cook, turning occasionally, until lightly browned in spots and smelling aromatic, about 8 to 10 minutes.
5. Remove the pan from heat, and gently add in the brandy (or Cognac or dry sherry in my case). Return to heat and cook until it has almost evaporated.
6. Slowly add in the lobster cooking liquid and thyme sprigs and bring to simmer until the liquid gets reduced by one-third. Strain the stock, discarding the solids with the strainer. That should leave you with about 2 cups of stock.
7. Melt the remaining butter in the same heavy pot over medium heat. Add in the roe (if any) and mash to break it down, mixing with the butter until the roe turns red, about 30 seconds or so. Add in the lobster meat next. Cook until just heated through, about a minute. Pour in the stock and bring to simmer. Keep a close eye on the pot. Over-simmering easily toughens the lobster meats.
8. Remove the stew from heat and gently stir in half-and-half. Season with salt and white pepper to taste, followed by a dash or two of Tobasco hot sauce.
9. Let cool completely on the counter. Transfer to a container and chill overnight to allow flavors to meld.
10. Prior to serving the next day, rewarm the stew gently over low heat, stirring occasionally. Be careful not to bring it to a simmer or the cream may separate. Ladle into separate individual warmed bowls and serve with some oyster crackers on the side.
* This December 2012 issue of the Bon Appétit magazine comes complete with a page on how to prep a lobster, particularly on removing their meats from shells. Amazing, no? Here's a link to it, which I hope it will always stay available to everyone who needs a hand at it!
Indulge away as we bring 2012 to a sweet close! Happy New Year!