Yes, lobster again. I live in New England where lobsters practically jump out of the water into your lobster pot. Not really, but they are plentiful, relatively inexpensive and quite delicious. So, when in Rome, as they say….
I’ve got the classic New England lobster boil down. We have the right equipment, the right implements of destruction, we even have little butter warming contraptions with tea lights underneath to keep your butter hot while you’re working your way through a two-pounder. However, there is an unavoidable culinary conundrum here in regards to seasonal products. Lobsters are cheap in the winter when their preferred sides of fresh corn on the cob and ripe tomatoes are out of season. What to do, what to do? I’ve made lots of lobster and seafood stews and have experimented with herbed, broiled and stuffed lobsters. This time I thought I’d try out a different lobster recipe that would allow me to stretch a little. Lobster pie.
We’ve seen it on menus and have ordered several variations of seafood pies at local restaurants. But none have ever really met my expectations for deliciousness. I knew I needed a couple of pounds of lobster meat and in my culinary imagination, the pie has a mashed potato crust and a slightly creamy sauce in which the lobster meat is gently swaddled. Sounds nice, doesn’t it?
I bought three small lobsters, totaling about 4 1/2 pounds, which I knew would yield a couple pounds of meat. I bought Yukon gold potatoes, a bunch of parsley and some mushrooms. I also bought a bottle of sparking wine. And I bought two enormous artichokes, which I thought would make really nice accompaniments to this lobster pie.
I started with the lobsters, lightly steaming them in a couple inches of water with lemon, cloves and spices for about 8 minutes. This is half the normal cooking time for whole steamed lobsters. Since the lobster meat would be baked once it was covered with mashed potatoes, I didn’t want it to be overcooked and rubbery. I let them cool for about 15 minutes before I cleaned out all the meat from the tails and claws. I picked through the bodies a little bit as there can be quite a lot of meat in a large lobster. These were small and not very meaty, but it was still worth the effort. All the lobster shells went into a stock pot with an onion, a small carrot and some celery tops. As it was boiling down, I used some of this lobster broth for the sauce.
I set the lobster meat aside and started working on the sauce. I sautéed the sliced mushrooms in butter with some crushed garlic until they were soft and fragrant, then added a heaping teaspoon of flour, which I stirred into the melted butter, cooking briefly, to make a roux. I spooned in some of the lobster broth and a squeeze of lemon juice and cooked it together until it was thick, about 5 minutes. Then I added a small bit of cream, just a couple of tablespoons, and my sauce was done. In hindsight, deglazing the pan with a bit of port or sherry would have added a sweetness and luxuriousness to the sauce that would have made this lobster pie exquisite. I let the sauce cool while I prepared the topping. I steamed the potatoes in the microwave, which allows them to cook without taking on water as they do when they are boiled. Once they were cooked through, I riced them and added some milk, butter and a bit of sour cream. I left them rather stiff, the better to shape them into a crust.
For the final preparation, I stirred the sauce and lobster together, added some fresh chopped parsley, spread the mixture into small baking dishes and covered with a thick layer of mashed potatoes. I sprinkled the top with breadcrumbs and dotted them with butter. The lobster pies went into a 375 degree oven for about 20 minutes, until they were bubbling. The top was slightly browned and the soft texture of the lobster and potatoes made the perfect marriage. Damn, this was a scrumptious dish and I learned a lot for next time. Lobster? Again? You betcha!!