Serves: 2 or 4
This is probably the most famous lobster recipe there is and while it is expensive and rather time-consuming, it is worth it-both money and effort-wise. You could cut two corners by buying frozen prepared lobsters and you would get a fine result but you would be missing the treat of the taste and texture of fresh lobster. You may also want to go down the frozen, prepped lobster route if the thought of dispatching live lobsters fills you with horror. I suggest you have a look at a Youtube video of how to prepare a cooked lobster if you are unsure of the technique. If you are feeling generous (or greedy) serve one lobster –i.e. two halves- per person but a half lobster would make a great first course.
- 2 live lobsters, put in the freezer for 3-4 hours to sedate them
- 1 onion, peeled and halved
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 70g salt approx.
- 400ml good fish stock
- 100ml dry vermouth
- 45g butter
- 2 banana shallots, peeled and very finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons plain flour
- 100ml whole milk
- 150ml double cream
- 30g grated gruyère cheese
- 1 teaspoon tomato purée
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped tarragon
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
- 20g panko crumbs
- Fill a large stockpot or saucepan with cold water (enough to cover the lobsters) and add the onion, bay leaves, peppercorns and salt. You may need to add a bit more salt – the water should be as briny as seawater. Bring to the boil and carefully lower in the sedated lobsters. Cover with a lid and bring back to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes. Lift the lobsters out of the water and leave to cool.
- When the lobsters are cold tear off the claws and set aside. Remove the spindly legs and discard. Cut down the length of each lobster from head to tail. Remove all the contents of the head and discard. Loosen the tail meat from the shell but keep it intact for the time being. You need the empty head cavity for the claw meat. Hit the lobster claws with the back of a very heavy knife or rolling pin –just enough to peel off the shell and remove the claw meat. Chill the lobsters until you have finished preparing the sauce. You can prepare them well in advance.
- Pour the fish stock into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce by half its volume. Pour in the vermouth and boil to reduce by about a third. You should end up with about 150ml liquid.
- Heat the butter in a saucepan and add the shallots and a pinch of salt. Sauté gently for about 10 minutes until the shallots are soft. Stir in the flour and cook for one minute. Gradually pour in the reduced stock mixture. Keep stirring over a low heat. Stir in the milk followed by the cream. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Stir in half the cheese and the tomato purée.
- Heat the oven to fan 180˚c, mark 6. Put the shells into an ovenproof dish. Cut the lobster meat into bite-size pieces and stir into the sauce. Pile back into the shells. Mix the remaining cheese with the panko and sprinkle over the lobsters. Bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes until bubbling and golden. Serve with a crisp salad.