Back in the day, especially when I lived in coastal Massachusetts, I made Lobster a l’Americaine regularly. It was probably the first complicated Julia Child recipe that I mastered. Now, living on the Eastern End of Long Island, I still have excellent access to great, fresh lobster. For the past decade or so, I’ve prepared lobster in myriad ways; but my go-to method has been lobster either butter poached or sous vide in butter. Hungry for lobster the other day, I proposed to the other gourmaniac that we go old school and that I’d make Lobster Americaine. Dishes prepared à l’américaine consist of a luscious tomato-wine sauce.
I pretty much relied upon Julia Child here: although, instead of her suggestion for an accompaniment of risotto, I made fresh linguine .
Ingredients (Serves 4 people):
3 1-½ to 2 lb lobsters (hard shell, not shedders that are found during the late summer)
4-5 Tbsp canola oil
1 medium carrot, peeled and finely diced
1 medium stalk of celery, peeled and finely diced
1 medium white onion, finely sliced
4 Tbsp finely minced shallots
4 cloves of finely minced garlic
1/3 cup of cognac
5 medium fresh tomatoes on the vine, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 cup fish stock (preferably home-made)
1-½ cup white wine
2 Tbsp tomato paste
4 Tbsp chopped parsley
4 Tbsp chopped fresh tarragon
6 Tbsp soften unsalted butter
Basil florets for garnish
The reserved coral (the red and / or green stuff inside the lobsters)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Kill the lobsters. Separate the claws and knuckles, and the tails from the lobster bodies, reserve the coral and/or the green stuff inside the lobster bodies. With a heavy a kitchen knife or poultry shears, cut the tails into three pieces, detached the claws from the knuckles and crack each claw.
Coat a large Dutch oven (or casserole) with the canola oil and place on high heat on the stove top. When it’s hot, but not smoking, throw in the lobster pieces. Move them around with a wooden spatula, turning them. Cover with a lid and continue to heat, checking on the lobster pieces until the shells are red. (The lobster meat inside the shells shoul not be cooked by this point.) Transfer the lobster from the Dutch oven to a bowl. Immediately place the carrot, celery and onion in the Dutch oven, lower the heat and cook until tender, about five minutes.
When the aromatics are cooked, season the lobster pieces with salt and pepper, then return them to the Dutch oven, and increase the heat to high. Add the garlic and shallots and cover to build up the heat: don’t let the aromatics or the garlic and shallots burn. After a minute or so, remove the lid, pour in the cognac, and ignite with a long neck igniter. (Careful here!)
After the flames subside, pour in the wine and fish stock, and incorporate the tomato paste. Add the chopped tarragon. Reduce the heat and cook on the stovetop for several minutes until everything is simmering. (The aroma is intoxicating.) Remove from the stovetop; cover the Dutch oven with a lid and place in the 350 degree oven for about 18-20 minutes.
In the meantime, bring a simmering stockpot of salted water to a boil, and just as the lobster comes out of the oven, cook the linguine or fettuccine until al dente.
In a small bowl, blend the coral/green lobster stuff with the softened butter. It will look like a paste. Remove the lobster pieces from the Dutch oven and transfer to a bowl. Take ½ cup of the cooking liquid from the casserole, and add it to the bowl of the butter-coral mixture, whisk quickly, and immediately return to the Dutch oven. Whisk until combined; you’ll notice the cooking liquid begin to thicken. Add the lobster back in and coat with the thickened sauce.
Drain the pasta, plate with the lobster pieces on top of the linguine. Ladle some of the scrumptious sauce into each dish, and garnish with chopped parsley and basil florets.