What To Do With Cheap Lobster: Make Lobster Thermidor A La Julia Child [Recipe]

lobster thermidor - service!Believe it or not – I do eat homemade meals.  While I’m usual the only one around to cook, every now and then – someone takes pity on me and treats me to some of their home cooking.  Recently, my father volunteered for the job.  This past week, he whipped up some Lobster Thermidor based on the Julia Child recipe.  Before you jump out of your seat at the idea of preparing a costly lobster dish, you should check out this article in the Atlantic.  Lobster prices are way down and I hear that even the largest examples of the crustacean are pretty inexpensive over at the DeKalb Farmer’s Market.

The preparation is quite intense, so you can’t whip this dish up if you’re getting home late from your 9-5.  In addition, I wasn’t around when he cooked the dish, so I don’t have photos of the assembly process.  I have included some post preparation photos.  Anyway, get your hands dirty after the jump!  This dish would easily fly in the finest of restaurants here in town.

This classic French dish is particularly creamy.  Utilizing cream, butter, liquor, and the like – it’s definitely rich.  However, I was quite surprised at how comfortable I felt after sucking down a full lobster.  If prepped correctly, the top of this will crust ever so slightly and subsequent bites of the cream sauce, mushrooms, cheese, and lobster will leave your mouth wondering why this isn’t a frequent guest at the dinner table.

The side salad you see pictured is just a mix of fresh greens, some cherry tomatoes, and a housemade vinaigrette.  Meanwhile, desert was a fresh crème brûlée garnished with a solitary raspberry.  Papa Buddha is the “I” as he wrote the rest of this!

lobster thermidor - plated creme brulee lobster thermidor - the setting

Lobster Thermidor (Modified a la Julia Child)

Step 1 – Ingredients

  • 2 cups dry vermouth
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
  • 6 sprigs fresh parsley
  • 1 bay leaf (fresh if possible)
  • 1/4 teaspoon thyme
  • 6 peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon fresh or dried tarragon
  • 3 (2 lb) live lobsters. Have the fish monger steam but not fully cook the lobsters.  Then, split them in half. Leave the tamale intact. Remove the undercooked lobster from the shell and claws. Set the lobster and tamale aside. Cut the lobster into bite size pieces and move the cut lobster and tamale to Step 6. Tamale is optional.

Step 2

  • 1/2 lb sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Step 3 the sauce

  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 6 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon cream

Step 4

  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1 pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1-2 ounces of high grade American black caviar

Step 5

  • 4-6 tablespoons additional whipping cream

Step 6

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup cognac

Step 7

  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese or Swiss cheese
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces

The Action

To make this recipe a bit more manageable, I cut up the recipe by Steps and put the relevant portion next to the prepped Step. Print up the following and cut up as appropriate.

lobster thermidor - ready to bake1. Prep everything and separate into the 7 steps above.

2. Simmer all of the ingredients under Step 1 (except the lobsters!) in a large enameled or stainless steel pot for 15 minutes.

3. Bring to a rolling boil and then add the lobster shells (not the meat or tamale).

4. You can tell when the shells are done because they are bright red and the long head-feelers can be pulled out pretty easily.

5. While the shells are steaming, stew the mushrooms over low to medium low heat in a covered saucepan with all of the other ingredients from Step 2 for 10 minutes.

lobster thermidor - lined up6. When the lobster shells are cooked, remove them from the kettle and set aside.

7. Pour the mushroom juices in the kettle (not the mushrooms!) lobster-juices pot and boil down rapidly until it is reduced to about 2 1/4 cups liquid.

8. Strain the liquid into a large saucepan and bring to a simmer.

9. Cook the first 2 ingredients from Step 3 slowly together in another saucepan.

10. Be sure not to brown it!

lobster thermidor - out of the oven11. Remove from heat, and beat in the lobster-mushroom liquid.

12. Boil, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.

13. Drizzle the cream from step 3 on top of the sauce.

14. Place the caviar in a 3 quart mixing bowl, mash it with a spoon, and blend in the ingredients from step 4.

15. Beat the lobster-mushroom sauce into this mixture in small spats. Set the mushrooms aside to use in #25 below.

16. Return the sauce to the pan, and, stirring with a wooden spoon, bring it to a boil.

17. Boil slowly for 2 minutes.

18. Thin out with step 5.

19. By now the sauce should be thick enough to coat a spoon pretty heavily.

20. Set aside, top filmed with a spoonful of cream.

lobster thermidor - ready for plating21. Set the skillet with the butter from step 6 over medium heat.

22. When butter foam begins to dissipate, stir in the lobster meat and sauté, stirring slowly until the meat just warmed and coated with the butter. Do not overcook, since you will be backing it soon.

23. Pour the cognac in and boil for a minute or two, shaking the skillet, until the liquid has been reduced by half.

24. Preheat oven to 425°F.

25. Fold cooked mushrooms and 2/3 of the sauce into the skillet with the lobster meat.lobster thermidor - up close and personal

26. Arrange the split lobster shells on a shallow roasting pan or fireproof serving platter.

27. Heap the lobster mixture into the shells, and cover with the remaining sauce.

28. Sprinkle with cheese and dot with butter (you can refrigerate it at this point to finish up later on).

29. Place in upper 1/3 of the oven for 10-15 minutes, until lobster is bubbling and sauce is a nice brown.

30. Serve immediately!

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