Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Lobster Thermidor, My Way

Awhile back I saw a remarkable picture on my friend Carrie's Facebook wall. It was posted by her brother and it involved food, so of course, I had to take a closer look. Apparently he's a diver and catches his own lobster, and he occasionally transforms the crustaceans into something called Lobster Thermidor.

Curious, I looked it up. And promptly shut my laptop down. That crazy multi-step endeavor requires cooking live lobster then transforming it into a rich, delectable concoction that is placed back into the lobster shells and baked in the oven. I would never have enough time for such nonsense.

I told Mr. Musky about it. He too became mildly obsessed, suggesting we make it on New Year's Eve at the cabin.

"I think I'm going to need my Plainfield kitchen for this absurd cooking adventure."

Thank goodness I stuck to my guns.

Since we usually celebrate Valentine's Day the weekend before and we never go to a restaurant for the Hallmark inspired event, we decided Saturday would be the perfect day to test our partnership skills in the kitchen. So we ventured out to the Supreme Lobster store in Villa Park, about a 30 minute drive from our home, to determine if this culinary experience was even in the cards for us. Upon entering the store, we casually meandered over to the lobster tank and peered in upon the largest lobster either of us have ever before seen.

"No effin way!" exclaimed Mr. Musky as he backed away from the tank, horror and uncertainty written all over his face.

Needless to say, the up-close largesse of the sea creatures was quite unnerving.

After wandering around the store for a bit, quietly reassuring each other, we found ourselves back at the lobster tank, mustering up the courage to ask the fish monger about 'how it works.'

"You tell me what you want and I pick them out for you."

"How about transporting them?"

"I give them to you in a box."

Well, that sounded simple enough. So we were off with our newfound treasures and ready to embark on a culinary effort not soon to be forgotten.

We began at about 4:00, by first watching a video of the master herself.
Her Highness of French Cooking.
Queen Julia's Lobster Thermidor can be found here, and it is 32 steps long with 25 ingredients. I'll be honest - it is highly intimidating and requires plenty of time and patience. But I'll spare you the mundane details and will instead entertain you with my own step-by-step instructions for delectability.

Step 1.
Open and pour a good bottle of French wine to inspire yourself, since you are cooking a French dish. Put some tunes on. For us it was the Dave Matthews Band station on Pandora.
Step 2.
Present attractive cooking partner with a healthy glass of said wine.
Step 3.
Size up the arthropods you purchased for the evening's entertainment.
Be not afraid or repulsed, unlike the adept, tough hockey player below.
Step 4.
Play with your food. Elevated blood alcohol content helps wary adults overcome their apprehension. 
Step 5.
Demonstrate to the children and guarded adults that lobsters are friendly, harmless and fun.
Step 6.
Encourage offspring to play.

Step 7.
Then draw the line.
Step 8.
Plunge the suckers into a pot of simmering white wine seasoned with celery, onion, carrot, tarragon, parsley, bay leaf, peppercorns and thyme.

Take a slug of your wine.

Then mentally break down and bawl your eyes out because Queen Julia has 31 remaining steps and you will be cooking until next week. 

Compose yourself and organize the rest of the ingredients so you don't botch the dish. 
Step 9. 
Drink more wine. Put your indentured servant to work. 
Step 10. 
Show her how to separate an egg. She'll love this. Threaten to harm her if she separates all the eggs in the carton just for fun.
Step 11.
Pull the lid off the steamy lobster pot. Let some steam rise, then stick your head halfway into the pot. Inhale. Smile. Drink more wine. Say "aaahhhh."
Step 12.
Promote attractive cooking partner to Sous Chef. Put him to work. 
Step 13.
While your beloved shells the lobster, drink more wine. Re-engage indentured servant as your sauciere. 
Step 14. 
Take over as sauciere. And brace yourself. You are about to witness something miraculous.
Step 15.
Taste the sauce. Die a little bit. Drink wine. Taste the sauce again. Roll it around in your mouth. Savor it's smooth, creamy, rich texture. Declare you want to take a bath in it.  

Sorry folks. It's a PG rated blog. I don't have a picture of me and the sauce in the tub.

Step 16. 
Peer back behind you and soak it in. Thank God that every family member is present - on a Saturday night, no less - and that you are having a blast together. Appreciate this precious, fleeting moment in time. 
Step 17. 
Dump the lobster meat into the sauce. Resist shoving ladle-fulls into your gullet.
Step 18.
Violently spill your glass of wine because you forgot key ingredients in the dish, like cognac and more butter. Crisis! 
About the cognac. And the butter. Not about the wine mess you have clean up.

Step 19. 
Listen to the important lobster life lessons your beloved provides to your first born. Like the tenderness with which males treat females during mating and how their fertility actually increases with age. Just what your teenager daughter wants to know as we celebrate cupid's holiday.  
Step 20.
Finally! Plate the divine goodness and dig in, saving the leftovers to make Lobster Mac-n-Cheese on Valentine's Day night.
Whew. Now for the proverbial question. Was it worth all the trouble?

Absolutely. But in all honesty? It's probably the last time I'll ever make this dish. I would much rather just boil the suckers, dredge the meat through clarified butter, watch it drip down to my elbows and consume with relish. I didn't really recover from cooking the tender, delectable meat twice, which just defies logic. The dish is awfully rich and heavy. I recommend passing on it.

Unless you find yourself Valentine's night on a hot date drinking a big, fat Martini in a smoke-filled, dimly lit French restaurant with the Rat Pack crooning love songs in the background and you need to gain weight. Then go for it!

Happy Valentine's Day, all. I hope yours is as good as ours was.

And when in doubt? Just drink more wine.


P.S. - Thanks Carrie's brother for the inspiration. And thank you Carrie for the Martini/Rat Pack idea!