my birthday dinner, I wanted to make a special menu to mark the day.
As you saw
from the Torta Ricotta e Pere several weeks ago, the dessert fit the bill, but
the main course had to rock too.
Thermidor. I had never made it and, in fact, I don't think I'd ever had the
real thing... nothing more than some gelatinous mess on a steam table at a supposed
high-end brunch buffet.
years, when living on the Maine Coast, lobster was a given for my natal day, because
late August is the best season for the firm-fleshed North Atlantic critters.
But, here in the desert, 3,000 miles from the source of those tasty
crustaceans, it takes a very special occasion to indulge in lobster.
expensive! But, I am worth it, right?
Thermidor consists of buttery, sherry-laced chunks of lobster, sautéed with mushrooms, in an
egg-cream sauce, nicely browned under the broiler. Oh, happy birthday to me!
It is really
a fairly straightforward and simple dish, especially if your fishmonger will
cook the lobster for you in advance.
• Don't try to remove the rubber bands prior to cooking, or
there will be blood, and it won’t be the lobster’s.
• When steaming or boiling a live lobster, it takes 9 minutes per pound, so it is
important to know how much your "bugs" weigh.
• Keep live lobsters very
cold until it is time to plunge them, head first, into the water.
• If using the
lobster meat to make a dish, such as Thermidor, undercook the whole lobsters by
2 minutes per pound, as they will finish cooking in the sauté pan.
Thermidor was invented at Marie’s Restaurant in Paris in 1894 and
named for a play at a neighboring theater. The play took its name from its
setting amidst the Thermidorian Reaction during the French Revolution a century
earlier. Thermidor had been one of the newly-given names of the months in that chaotic
something as rich as the Thermidor, I wanted a light and summery soup. A no
butter/no cream soup, as there would be plenty of each coming our way in the successive
course. I opted for my chilled and minted melon-lime soup.
I had gone to
the farmers market a couple of days before, and snagged a perfectly ripe
Ambrosia melon. Ambrosia melons are sweet and juicy, with very tender flesh. With this
melon, I used our homegrown limes and mint with a dash of dessert wine to make a beautiful, light, and healthy soup to open the meal.
For wine pairings,
I had a lovely Provençal
Viognier Vaudois that I assumed would pair well with the lobster. Jennifer and Pat
brought a lovely choice of buttery Chardonnays to add to the table (in addition
to the gift of the beautiful gratin dishes!).
Viognier was known as the perfect wine pairing for lobster. While that might
normally be the case, I think you should read the pairing notes I wrote for the
sweet: the Viognier was not good with the lobster, but went perfectly with the melon soup. The Frank Family Chardonnay was
perfect with the lobster. In the end, we were all happy.
And I was a
Melon-Lime Soup with Mint
dessert or sweet wine
tablespoons agave syrup
1 bunch fresh
melon, and scoop out all the seeds and string part. Slice into wedges and
remove the rind. Cut into chunks and place them in a blender. Add the juice of
the lime, the wine, and 2 tablespoons agave syrup. Purée until very smooth, and taste for sweetness. Add a
little more agave syrup and blend again, until the proper sweetness has been
Tie the mint
with butcher's string, and roll the bundle between your hands to bruise the
leaves. Dunk the mint into the blender with the puréed melon, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and
up to 24 hours.
remove the mint and discard. Purée
the soup again to make it creamy/foamy. (The soup will have separated in the
chilled soup plates, and garnish with either a slice of lime, or a sprig of
unsalted butter, plus extra for gratin dishes
shallot, peeled and minced
button mushrooms, thinly sliced
freshly ground white pepper
1/4 cup dry
1/2 cup heavy
cream, scalded and divided
1 egg yolk
cooked lobster in half lengthwise. Remove the claws; crack them and remove the
meat. Remove the tail from each half; cut
the tail and claw meat into a half-inch dice. Wash the shells and reserve for
serving, or butter two gratin dishes (my choice).
Melt 2 tablespoons butter
in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over moderate heat, then cook shallot and
mushrooms, stirring, for about 5 minutes. Add lobster meat, salt, and pepper
and reduce heat to low. Cook, shaking pan gently, 1 minute. Add 2 tablespoons
Sherry and 1/4 cup hot cream and simmer 5 minutes, till slightly thick.
together yolk, mustard, and remaining Sherry in a small bowl. Slowly pour
remaining 1/4 cup hot cream into yolks, whisking constantly, and transfer to a
small heavy saucepan. Cook custard over very low heat, whisking, until it has
thickened. Add custard to lobster mixture, stirring gently.
broiler. Arrange lobster shells, cut sides up (or two buttered gratin dishes) in
a shallow baking pan and spoon lobster with some of sauce into shells/dishes.
Broil 6 inches from element until golden brown.