The first time I cooked lobster, I couldn’t eat it. At the time I thought it was the act of killing them that put me off. But now I think the fact that I foolishly held a lobster race on the kitchen floor to entertain my then two-year-old while the water heated was likely the real source of my unease.
Nowadays, my kitchen is regularly the final stop for lobsters. But they are treated with respect – I keep them in the bag until the last minute; we don’t play with them. There is still nothing elegant about the process, but it is done with dignity.
Here’s a bisque I made for a crowd last week. It was loosely adapted from a recipe in the New York Times.
2 live lobsters
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 carrot, roughly chopped
2 ribs celery, roughly chopped
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh tarragon
1 cup white wine
2 cups clam juice
1 cup heavy cream
1 pinch of cayenne pepper.
Fill a stock pot with water and salt heavily. When the water is boiling add the lobsters – you can look away if you like. Boil gently for 10 minutes (you don’t want to over cook the lobster – the meat becomes rubbery). Remove the lobster meat and set aside. Keep the shells and other lobster bits for the stock.
Sauté the vegetables and herbs in a pan for five minutes and then add the lobster shells and carcass. Sauté for another few minutes. Add the wine and clam juice and some of the lobster-cooking water (2-3 cups). Reduce heat, cover and simmer for an hour or so.
Strain the broth through a colander and return to the pot. add the cream, the lobster meat and a pinch of saffron (mixed with a little hot water), salt to taste and a pinch of cayenne.