I couldn't believe it when a book agent declined my submission of Partita, and then asked if I had the recipe for a meal prepared by its main character, Rollo Hastings. As it happens to be a real recipe in a cookbook of mine, I decided to post it. At least there's something she liked about the book!
PS, discussions are underway with another agent!
Lobster Croustade with spiced Avocado cream and Lobster Bisque (Original posting)
Forgive the less than perfect photography, but I wanted to get these recipes out for the holidays, and I’m currently on a tiny island off the coast of Nova Scotia – and it’s f.f.f…freezing!
But it’s Lobster season, and I want to introduce you to 2 ways of preparing Croustades (baked bread cups) with Lobster. One, in a fairly traditional way, using a delicious mayonnaise, and the other, in a more unusual manner, incorporating Indian spices and yogurt, which I’ll post very soon.
Prep Time: 4-5hrs serves 4-6
Difficulty: Med. With several different components, but simple plating.
Notes: If you don’t have access to fresh Lobster, you can use frozen. But remember, each bite counts, and the better the product, the better the outcome. You can also use frozen shrimp to great effect! If you are not confident making your own mayonnaise, use a high-quality store brand and add a shot (little by little) of limoncello, which will lift the mayonnaise in ways you couldn’t imagine!
Tip: If you’re making a large number and find yourself short of Lobster meat, it’s OK to pack-out the mixture with some frozen shrimp. I use the small, N. Atlantic type as they are tastier!
1 x 1.5Lb fresh lobster – choose one with hefty claws, as much of the good meat comes from there! ½ cup, chopped frozen shrimp if required. 6 slices of brown bread – choose a rustic bread, but not one with too many nuts, as the bread will tend to fall apart as it’s rolled/shaped. 50ml virgin olive oil 50ml peanut oil 50ml Clam juice or fish stock 1 egg yolk black pepper & salt for seasoning Butter and olive oil for frying. Small bunch of fresh (chopped) parsley Small bunch fresh coriander (cilantro) 2-3 strands fresh rosemary ½ cup Limoncello liqueur 1 fresh lemon, a small quantity of sweet chilli sauce. 1 ripe avocado, small square of fresh ginger, 1 med hot chilli pepper, small tin of coconut milk Tomato paste, 1 cup red wine, ½ cup of your favourite veg/chicken stock, and plain flour for Roux 1 small (rough chopped) onion, 1 small (diced) carrot.
To make the mayonnaise: Whisk the egg yolk, gently adding the combined fish stock and oils until emulsified. Season to taste with a pinch of salt, a good twist of freshly ground, black pepper, and finish with a splash of limoncello to gently loosen the mixture. Or simply add a splash of limoncello to enough store-brought mayonnaise (about 4Tbs) and black pepper to taste! Cover and set aside in the fridge.
To prepare the Lobster: I have developed a way of killing Lobster that I believe to be as quick a process as possible. I pop them in the freezer for about 45 mins prior to cooking which greatly subdues them. I use an over-sized boiling pot and I bring the water to a raging boil. I then take the lobster, snip off the claw bands with some scissors, and then slide it head-first into the boiling water. If done correctly, the creature is killed almost instantly. However, if the water is not hot enough, or your try to over-crowd the pot, the Lobster might suffer unduly. If I cook more than one Lobster at a time, I make sure the water is once again fully boiling before adding another Lobster. Sometimes, I tag an individual with a steel sandwich-bag tie so I can identify which one to remove first, but I never over-crowd the pot!
Cook the Lobster for 5-6 mins depending on size and then remove and plunge into iced water to halt the cooking process. Remove the meat from the body and claws/knuckles, gleaning as much flesh as possible, roughly chop it, add some freshly squeezed lemon, then add in the mayonnaise. Finish with some ground, black pepper, and then cover and refrigerate the mix for at least 1hr. Add the mayonnaise a little at a time, tasting as you go, to result in a thick, luxurious mix that is not too runny! Reserve the broken-down shells (the tail/claws will suffice) for the Bisque.
To make the Lobster bisque: First make a simple Roux: add a knob of butter and a splash of olive oil to a frying pan and cook-off the onion and carrot for a minute or so. Add 2 x teaspoons of tomato paste and a level table spoon of plain flour to the mix and cook-off the resulting paste for another minute or so, stirring continuously. The objective is to cook-through the Roux without it burning. I often repeatedly remove the pan from the heat, and stir continuously. The mix will become lumpy, but be persistent and keep everything moving in the pan (this method avoids using too much fat!). When it’s cooked through, add the red wine and stir thoroughly for another minute. You should now have a thick, smooth liquid. Add the rosemary, the broken-down Lobster shell, the stock and most of the parsley (reserve a little to garnish), cover and allow to simmer gently for about 30 mins, checking and stirring occasionally so as to not over-reduce. I taste throughout this process, and I evolve the sauce to the flavour/colour profile I’m looking for, all the while. Don’t be afraid to add more wine, and I often finish with some limoncello which adds sugar to balance out any slight bitterness that may be present. You might like to add a dash of cream to soften the Bisque, but with this dish, I prefer to keep it intense and rich. Once satisfied, sieve the mixture, pushing down firmly with a large spoon, to extract the fine liquid, which can then be reserved, ready to re-heat prior to plating.
To make the Croustades: Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Trim off the crust from 6 slices of bread. Spay each one on both sides with olive oil, and then roll out each slice using an oiled rolling pin until thin and thoroughly and evenly wetted through with oil. Once rolled, press out a round from the centre of each slice proportional to the size of your muffin tray. (I use an empty, cleaned, large sized tomato tin as a form). Oil the inside of 6 sections of a med sized muffin tray, and then, very carefully, press each prepared slice into the mold, ensuring not to break or tear the bread. The resulting croustades don’t necessarily need to be high-sided, as long as they have an upstanding edge to contain the lobster mix. Bake carefully for 10 – 15 mins until crisp and golden/brown. Allow to cool on a wired tray (if you have one – if not a couple of slotted frying pan tools might work), and set aside. Depending on the bread used, the croustades will remain crisp for a couple of hours, and should only be filled immediately prior to serving!
To make the avocado cream: Make this element last as it will discolour. Halve and de-stone a ripe, but green-fleshed avocado, scoop out the flesh and place in a food processor (I use a hand-held device). Add chopped ginger and coriander, chopped chili pepper, the small tin of coconut milk, a teaspoon of sweet chili sauce, freshly ground black pepper and a drizzle of limoncello. Blitz to a very smooth, green paste/liquid. Taste! It should be smooth, creamy, only slightly sweet, and quite spicy! The spice will be balance by the Lobster Bisque!
Plating: Gently warm the bisque. I then add both the bisque and the avocado cream to two, separate, squeezy containers with nozzle caps (which helps delicate plating). Fill the croustade cases with a generous amount of the Lobster mix, ensuring it’s equally portioned, and garnish with black pepper and a sprinkling of fine chopped parsley. Place each one on your chosen plate. Take the avocado cream, and squeeze on a series of equally spaced, but decreasingly small dots of sauce around the croustade. Repeat using the Lobster Bisque, and then carefully blend together by running a sharp pick through the line.