LOBSTER A LA NAGE

Perfectly Poached Lobster

 
“A la nage” literally means “swimming”. This lobster is cooked in an herbal broth with wine; it’s one of the fabled dishes of the French kitchen. This version comes from a new book by one of today’s truly great chefs, Daniel Boulud. The book is called Cafe Boulud Cookbook (Scribner is the publisher). The dish is really very simple, although a bit time consuming mainly because you must remove the lobster meat from the shell. I have arranged the recipe in 5 uncomplicated steps. Each ingredient should be best quality, and each step taken with care, in order to showcase the delicate flavor of the luxurious lobster, and to create this amazing classic. Take time to prepare this, maybe for a special occasion....and enjoy the experience.

SERVES 4

 
1 tablespoon, coarse sea salt
6 quarts, water
4 one-pound lobsters
for the fumet (fish stock):
1 tablespoon, unsalted butter
1 tablespoon, extra-virgin olive oil
the crushed lobster shells (directions below)
1 small carrot – peeled and quartered
1/2 onion – peeled and quartered (save the other half for use in the nage)
1/2 stalk, celery – trimmed and split lengthwise
1 strip, lemon zest (yellow part of peel – no white)
1 teaspoon, fennel seeds
1 teaspoon, coriander seeds
1 bay leaf
1 whole clove
1/2 teaspoon, black peppercorns
2 cups, reserved lobster cooking water (described below) 

for the nage:
2 1/2 tablespoons, unsalted butter
the other 1/2 onion – peeled and sliced thin
1 stalk, celery – trimmed and sliced thin
1 peel-away layer of fennel (called a petal of fennel) – sliced thin
salt and freshly ground white pepper
1 cup, dry white wine (Riesling is best, or use a dry Sauvignon Blanc or
last choice: Chardonnay)
1 cup, reserved lobster fumet (from above – directions follow)
2 tablespoons, finely chopped chives
2 tablespoons, finely chopped chervil leaves
4 lemon wedges – for serving

 

1. Cook the lobsters: place the water and sea salt in a deep stockpot, bring water to a boil, then plunge the lobsters into the pot, head first. Cook the lobsters for just 4 minutes, then remove them from the pot and set them aside to drain in a colander or on a towel. Reserve 2 cups of the cooking water to make the fumet.

2. Remove the lobster meat, reserving the shells: When the lobsters are cool enough to handle, break the claws with a nutcracker – then remove the meat from claws and knuckles, working gently so you don’t damage the meat. Next, using shears, split the lobster tails in half down the back. Leave the tail meat in the shell (the shell will protect the meat from overcooking) but remove the intestinal vein that runs through the tail. Cover lobster meat and tails with a damp paper towel, and refrigerate in a dish covered with plastic wrap.

The rest of the carcasses will be used to flavor the fumet. Crack the heads in the middle sections, and remove and discard everything that’s soft inside these shells. Then cut the shells into small pieces, using shears.Put the pieces in a pot, and pound them with a wooden mallet (or place the pieces on a cutting board, cover them with parchment, and pound them with the bottom of a pan). Do the best you can to crush the carcasses; the smaller the pieces of shell, the more surfaces there will be to give flavor to the fumet.

3. Make the fumet: In the rinsed-out stockpot used to cook the lobsters, or in a Dutch oven, warm the butter and olive oil. Toss the crushed carcasses into the pot, and cook them, stirring, for about 5 minutes. Add the carrot, onion, celery, lemon zest and spices, and cook and stir for 5 minutes more – taking care not to allow the vegetables to brown. Pour in the reserved lobster cooking water, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Pour the fumet through a strainer lined with cheesecloth; discard the solids, and reserve 1 cup if the fumet for the nage.

4. Make the nage: Melt one tablespoon of the butter in a large skillet or sauté pan. Add the onion, carrot, celery and fennel and cook for 3-5 minutes, keeping the vegetables un-colored – they should be slightly undercooked. Season with salt and pepper, pour in the wine, stir and cook at a steady simmer until the wine is reduced by half, and the vegetables are almost cooked through. Add the reserved fumet, adjust the heat so that the liquid
simmers slowly, and cook (regularly skimming off the foam and impurities that rise to the surface) for about 5 minutes – or until the vegetables are just tender.

Put all the pieces of lobster (still leaving the tails in their shells) into the pan and heat gently -DON’T BOIL – until the lobster meat is warmed through – about 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and swirl through the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter, in several pieces – adding one piece at a time. The butter shouldn’t exactly melt – instead, it will blend with the nage to form a thicker, satiny-smooth emulsion. Add the chives and chervil.

5.Compose and serve the dish: Divide the lobster pieces among four soup plates, making sure that each plate has 2 pieces of tail meat and two claws. Spoon over the nage – both liquid and vegetables – and serve with lemon wedges, in case someone wants a drop of lemon juice over their lobster.