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Dining Tip: Jasper White's Lobster Thermidor

A classic recipe that pairs well with Chardonnay

Posted: November 29, 2010

Note: this recipe originally appeared in the Sept. 30, 2010 issue of Wine Spectator, as part of the cover story, "The Art & Science of Matching Wine and Food."

• 3 live 1 1/2 to 2-pound hard-shell lobsters
• Kosher or sea salt
• 1 can (14.5 ounces) good quality diced tomatoes (ideally Italian plum)
• 2 cups dry white wine, preferably the wine you will serve with dinner
• 2 medium onions, cut into 1/2-inch dice
• 2 ribs celery, cut into 1/2-inch dice
• 2 small carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
• 5 cloves garlic, crushed
• 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
• 1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
• 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
• 4 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
• 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads (optional)
• 4 shallots (2 ounces), finely chopped
• Freshly ground black pepper
• 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
• 1 1/2 cups milk
• 2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
• 6 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated
• 1 large egg yolk
• 1/4 cup heavy cream
• 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
• Juice of 1/2 lemon
• Cayenne pepper to taste

1. Using a 12-quart pot, parboil the lobsters in 9 quarts of water and 9 tablespoons salt at a rolling boil for 10 minutes. (If using a smaller pot, maintain the same ratio of 3 quarts water and 3 tablespoons salt to 1 lobster.) Remove and let cool to room temperature.

2. Cut the lobsters in half, lengthwise. Remove and crack the claws and knuckles. Remove the thin blue intestine from inside the tail. Remove the meat from the tail, claws and knuckles, and cut into 1/2- to 1-inch chunks. Chop the greenish tomalley and orange-red roe (in females) and add to the meat. Cover the meat and four of the emptied lobster halves (the tail and the middle of the carcass with small walking legs intact) in plastic wrap and refrigerate.

3. Put all that remains from the lobsters in a pot with 3 quarts water. Bring to a simmer, skimming off the scum that forms on top. Add the tomatoes with juice, 1 cup of the wine, the onions, celery, carrots, garlic, fennel seeds, pepper flakes, peppercorns, thyme and, if desired, saffron. Simmer for 1 hour. Salt to taste. If the broth seems thin, cook another 20 minutes. Strain and refrigerate. (Lobster broth can be made 2-3 days ahead. It will freeze up to 4 weeks.)

4. Combine the shallots, 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, 1 cup lobster broth and the remaining wine in a small saucepan. Simmer until liquid reduces to 1/3 cup. Set aside.

5. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute, until it smells nutty but doesn't get more than a light caramel color. Whisk in the milk, 1/4 cup at a time. Stir constantly, allowing the sauce to thicken before adding more milk. Simmer slowly for 15 minutes. Stir to prevent scorching.

6. While the sauce simmers, mix the cheeses together. Add half the cheese mixture to the sauce. Stir over low heat until melted. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and cream. Mix in 2 tablespoons of the cheese sauce. Remove the cheese sauce from the heat, and stir in the cream and egg mixture. Strain into a mixing bowl. Add the wine reduction, mustard and lemon juice. Stir and season to taste with salt, black pepper and cayenne. When tepid, fold in the lobster meat.

7. Put a rack in the top third of the oven and heat to 450° F.

8. Place the empty lobster shells on a baking sheet, and fill with the lobster mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese. (The dish can be prepared, covered and refrigerated at this point up to 8 hours ahead. Bring to room temperature before baking.)

9. Melt the remaining butter and drizzle over the cheese. Bake the lobsters for 5 minutes, then turn the oven to broil and cook until the tops of the lobsters are brown and crispy. Serve immediately. Serves 4.


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