My tiny apartment-sized freezer and I play a sick game with each other. I stuff it full of goodies, or "oldies but used to be goodies and one day may be goodies once more," like unused baguette ends and bananas with even the slightest blemish (I'm very picky about my bananas). I have the best plans to make banana bread, or bread crumbs, or bread pudding, or banana bread pudding. Our freezer is bursting with my good intentions.
Said freezer retaliates by hiding crucial dinner ingredients deep in its dark frosty recesses. It zaps my bagels with freezer burn. Sometimes it even spits the frozen bananas -- often blackened and shriveled like the trophies of a pygmy headhunter -- at me when I open it.
It's a love-hate thing.
Problem is, Rob has the freezer packrat mentality as well. So when he gleefully volunteered to take all the lobster remains from our Superbowl Sunday feast, I wasn't surprised. As everyone knows, you need lobster carcasses to make lobster broth, the essential base for a number of lobster dishes.
First step: lobster smashing! Our friend Nigel, a chef at one of Toronto's best seafood restaurants, Starfish, recommends crushing lobster shells with a "blunt caveman-like implement or a rolling pin." We favour the bottom of our big Le Creuset pot, which makes a sound that is certainly more satisfying to us than to our neighbours.
Roast the lobster fragments in a hot oven for an hour. By the end, they'll be crackling and bouncing about in the heat. Deglaze the pan with white wine or other liquid, and put everything into a stock pot. Cover with cold water, add aromatics and herbs, simmer, and enjoy (or try to ignore) the seafood perfume that will invade every nook and cranny of your home. The finished stock is suprisingly dark.
The first meal we made with the stock was lobster risotto, made with a little white wine, some onions, and fresh lobster, of course. We topped the finished dish with a generous dollop of caviar. I wouldn't necessarily recommend this, as I thought the taste of the caviar overwhelmed the delicate fresh lobster. We happened to have some caviar from a previous Hogtown project, White Chocolate and Caviar. (I know, there are worse problems than having leftover caviar!)
We generally choose Mike's Seafood in the St. Lawrence Market for our live lobster, because their lobsters seem to be the most energetic, and are held in the least crowded tanks. The lobsters are certainly the biggest attraction for little kids on a Saturday mornings at the market -- nothing like having toddlers oohing and aahing as your dinner is bagged, waving its prehistoric-looking claws about. We boil our lobsters for about 7 minutes, and remove the meat with the same trusty Le Creuset pot, crushing the shell but leaving lovely big pieces of lobster meat intact and extracting the little bits as well. I've had to warn Rob about his enthusiastic lobster de-shelling, though. The plants on my kitchen windowsill by the counter look as if they've attended a crustacean Gallagher show.
Lobster bisque (see the recipe at the end of this post) is another fabulous way to use lobster stock. The toppings for this soup are decadent: fresh cooked lobster, creme fraiche, AND whipped cream laced with cognac and a pinch of salt. The end result is a lush soup with a powerful lobster taste and slight hints of anise and cognac.
We ate it all. The freezer got nothing this time.
Cognac Whipped Cream
2 tbsp cognac
1 cup whipping cream
pinch of salt
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
2 leek greens (for the bouquet garni)
4 sprigs thyme
4 sprigs Italian parsley
4 sprigs marjoram
1 bay leaf
1 onion, brunoise
1 fennel, brunoise
2 stalks celery, brunoise
4 cloves garlic, brunoise
1 Roma tomato, seeded and coarsely chopped
2 L lobster stock
80 mL Cognac (or brandy)
1 750-1000 gram lobster, cooked and cleaned (reserve the shells for more stock)
3 tbsp whipping cream
2 tbsp creme fraiche (optional)
In a chilled bowl, add heavy cream and whisk to soft peaks. Drizzle in cognac and continue to whisk until stiff peaks form. Season with a little salt and refrigerate until ready to use.
In a heavy bottomed stock pot, heat the olive oil and butter. To this add the onion, celery, fennel, Roma tomato, and garlic and cook until soft.
Wrap the thyme, parsley, marjoram, and bay leaf inside the leak greens, and tie with string. Tie one end of the string to the handle of the pot (for easy retrieval later). Do not yet put the bouquet garni in the pot.
Add the cognac and allow the alcohol to cook off, then add the lobster stock. Place the bouquet garni in the stock and bring the stock to a boil. Once the stock has come to a boil, reduce the heat and gently simmer for approximately 20 minutes. Do not allow the stock to boil heavily as this will make it cloudy.
Once the soup has finished simmering, remove from the heat and puree using an immersion blender, blender, or food processor. When the puree is of a uniform consistency, pass it through a fine chinoise or sieve.
Return the bisque to a clean pot and reheat. Add cream and creme fraiche, if desired.
Serve with fresh lobster and the cognac whipped cream.