Tuesday, 19 August 2014

The Five Key Ingredients For An Unforgettable Lobster Grilled Cheese Sandwich


lobster grilled cheese sandwich
Ahhh - the lobster grilled cheese sandwich. Photo (and hand modeling) courtesy of Maxine Guay.
Lobster. Grilled. Cheese. Sandwich.  I still remember the first time I heard those four magical words strung together.  My best friend had been to the Dip Net in Port Clyde and lunched on a magnificent merger of two of America's favorite foods - the humble grilled cheese and luxurious Maine lobster. The next time we met up in Cutler, my friend and I agreed we must make our own.

While you don't need a recipe to make an amazing lobster grilled cheese sandwich, there are some ingredients which will take your creation to a whole new level of perfection.  They are as follows:

1. Anadama bread. This traditional New England bread has a complex, slightly sweet flavor and a hearty texture which will not merely hold the innards of the sandwich but also enhance its flavor and mouthfeel.

2. Gruyère cheese. While many cheeses taste great with lobster, I prefer Gruyère as its creamy, nutty flavor perfectly complements the sweet, succulent flavor of lobster.  I'm pretty obsessed with Gruyère cheese in general.  I've even visited the hilltop town in Switzerland where Gruyère is made.  Combining this Swiss cheese with lobster transports a grilled cheese sandwich to another stratosphere.  If you can't find Gruyère cheese, I recommend adding a dash of nutmeg to the cheese you do use.

3. Cayenne Pepper. I consider Cayenne one of the most magical ingredients to pair with lobster. My mother and grandmother didn't use many herbs and spices in their cooking but they always added a few dashes of Cayenne pepper to their lobster Newburg.  My Mum said it gave the entrée a bit of 'zing.' I find that most creamy lobster dishes work well with a sprinkle or two of Cayenne.

4. New Shell Maine Lobster.  If you can, use new shell lobster as it is sweeter and more tender in flavor.  And need I say it should come from Maine.

5. A George Foreman Grill.  This is a tool vs an ingredient but it is worth adding to the list.  A George Foreman will clamp down on your thick, crusty slices of Anadama bread and ensure the layers of grated Gruyere melt into a soft gooey mass that clings to the lobster and bread.
Obviously use a great butter on your bread and break the lobster meat into decent-sized chunks to enhance the sandwich texture.  And enjoy!



lobster grilled cheese sandwich cooking
A lobster grilled cheese sandwich being griddled to golden perfection.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Julia Child And The Art Of Cooking...With Lobster

Julia Child Preparing Lobster
Photo via the JC 100 blog (http://tmblr.co/Z40SqvLXw0JS)

Tomorrow marks what would have been Julia Child's 102nd birthday.   To celebrate, I watched the 'Lobster Show' episode of The French Chef.  If you are a Julia Child fan, a lobster lover or both, the video, just $1.99 on Amazon, is 29 minutes of viewing pleasure.

Julia takes her audience on a culinary journey which starts with how lobster is caught through to storing, cooking, picking out and serving lobster.  Filmed in 1971, the show features an old wooden lobster trap and Big Bertha, a 20+ pound monster lobster (not legal in Maine even back in the 70's). 

Julia's recommendations on how to cook a lobster (once the water has come to a steam or boil) are as follows:
  • A 1 and 1/4 pound lobster - cook for 10 to 12 minutes
  • A 1 and 1/2 to 2 pound lobster - cook for 15 minutes 
  • A 2 and 1/2 to 5 pound lobster - cook 20 to 25 minutes
This guidance is helpful to a point.  When I cook lobster, I often steam multiple lobsters of varying sizes in the same pot. Getting the timing right can be tricky.  At times, the smaller lobsters or the lobsters at the bottom of the pot can end up slightly overcooked in an effort to ensure all the lobsters are cooked through. Julia does not address this dilemma in 'The Lobster Show' but she does suggest  plunging a meat thermometer into the chest of the steamed/boiled lobster to ensure the crustacean is properly cooked.  If the temperature registers at 165 to 170 degrees, the lobster is done.

If you are looking for guidance on how to get the most out of your cooked lobster, Julia is a great guide.  When she takes viewers through picking out a lobster, the master chef even covers how to extract meat from the body.  The cavity of the lobster holds some of the most sweet and tender meat, yet people often discard the lobster body and miss out on these magnificent morsels all together.

Julia Child's passion for lobster is evident not just through this video but also through her many renowned lobster recipes.  I have yet to master the art of cooking lobster Julia Child style (one of the items on my very, very long to do list) so I have no adaptations or advice to share with you here.  What I do have are links to websites and blogs which feature some of her most famous lobster recipes - either reprints with permission or adaptations. Enjoy!

Julia Child's Most Famous Lobster Recipes

  • Lobster Thermador: Perhaps Julia Child's most famous lobster recipe.  This creamy mixture of cooked lobster meat, egg yolks, and cognac tastes divine but involves many steps to execute.
  • Lobster Soufflé a l’Americaine:  Another labor-intensive lobster dish including tomatoes and cognac, topped with a cheese souffle. 
  • Lobster Stew: This recipe is a simpler, quicker alternative to lobster bisque and equally delicious.

Happy Birthday Julia!


Sunday, 3 August 2014

Recipe for Lobster Bonart - 2014 Maine Lobster Festival Cooking Contest Winner

Lobster Bonart Recipe Adam Marcus
Adam Marcus' Lobster Bonart. Photo via the Maine Food and Lifestyle blog.

The recipe for the winning dish at the 2014 Maine Lobster Festival Cooking Contest has been published on the Maine Food and Lifestyle blog and I wanted to share it here as it looks delicious.  It is a brunch dish involving chives, capers, artichoke heart, poached egg, Hollandaise sauce and, of course, lobster.  Given my obsession with lobster bloody Marys, I love that Adam served his Bonart dish with Bloody Marys that had lobster claws as stirrers.  But now on to the recipe.  It is as follows:

Adam Marcus' Lobster Bonart Recipe


Ingredients

The cooked meat of 4  1¼-1½ pound lobsters, chopped
4 artichoke hearts, cooked and cleaned
4 eggs+4 yolks
1 Tablespoon lemon
½ cup butter
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ Tablespoon capers, chopped
2 Tablespoons chives, chopped
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Pinch of cayenne

Preparation
Start a pot of water to boil for poaching eggs. At the same time, sauté the crushed garlic in olive oil. Just before the garlic turns brown, remove from the pan and discard. Put the chopped lobster, artichoke hearts and chopped capers in the pan of olive oil on low heat and sauté. Meanwhile, combine the egg yolks, lemon juice, salt, black pepper, cayenne, and a Tablespoon of water together. Place mixture over the pot of boiling water and whisk in the melted butter. Stir constantly until Hollandaise just starts to thicken. When it reaches a sauce consistency, place the bowl in a cold, liquid bath. A separate double boiler is better for this procedure if you own one. Poach the eggs for two minutes in the boiling water.

To assemble Lobster Bonart:

 

Place the artichoke heart in the middle of a warm plate. Surround the heart with the sautéed lobster meat. Place the poached egg on the artichoke heart. Pour the sauce over the egg and sprinkle with the chopped chives over the lobster meat and place two whole capers on the egg. Place two uncut chive stems on the side of the plate and serve.

Serves 4.

If you'd like to see the recipe for the winning lobster dish from the 2012 Maine Lobster Festival - Red, White and Blue Lobster Lasagna - click here