Update 25, Part 2: New Year's Goal: Become an "official" Gourmess by August 2010

I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate. --Julia Child

I finished Session 16, and... I killed my first lobster!!!!!!  (It was a traumatic day for both of us.)

Oddly, the book doesn't give instructions on how to kill a lobster, so I looked at a few of my other cookbooks and then watched a few how-to videos on the web. I decided to go with what is considered the "more humane" way to kill a lobster, which involves taking a sharp chef's knife and plunging it into the area about an inch behind the eyes, then cutting the head in half in one quick motion. Fast, painless -- and better than being boiled alive.  I also read that research has shown that lobsters have a nervous system that is too simple to include feeling pain...but, none of this made me feel any better about my first murder. I also read that you can freeze a lobster for 20 minutes before killing it to numb it -- but why prolong the inevitable? The poor creature has been yanked out of the lovely ocean and dumped in a teeny tank at a grocery store, its claws secured by rubber bands, only to be yanked out of that, put on a scale and stuffed into a bag, then transported home and thrown into the freezer? Yikes.

Before going to the store, I prepped my sauce ingredients ahead of time and did as much as I could beforehand so I could bring home my guy, take his life quickly, and move on with the recipe. When I took him out of his bag, Chris wanted me to show it to the cats -- Rocco couldn't have been less interested. I decided not to take a picture, because honestly, that's just mean. ("Smile for the camera -- I'm going to kill you in 2 minutes!" )

I took my knife, held down the rather feisty creature and went in for the kill. I admit that I screamed a bit, okay, maybe a lot -- which sent Chris and the cats running for cover, so the deed was done alone. Just me and the lobster. 

I plunged my knife into the area as instructed, but it got stuck on the next stroke down. I swear the lobster was silently screaming back at me -- I think there were some bubbles coming out of his mouth at this point, as I struggled with the knife and kept saying "I'm sorry!" over and over again. Thank goodness it didn't make any verbal noise, as I assume it would have been horrible to hear.  Finally, the knife came loose and I quickly cut his head in half and figured that was it and he was gone. It was all a matter of less than a minute, but it seemed like it took forever.  Its legs and little antennas were still moving for a bit after the death blow -- which was totally creepy and made me feel even worse. I cut the rest of it in half and then rinsed out the guts and grossness, reserving the liver (tomalley) before chopping him up into pieces -- he was still moving. I think he might have fared better in the boiling water. Poor thing.

(Deep breath, shake it off!)  I didn't need to do this myself -- I could have had my nice fish guy do it for me, but he suggested me doing it, for ultimate freshness. Plus, I admit, I love eating lobster, so I kind of felt like I had to do it. In fact, I had lobster four times already this week (2 lobster rolls, a fritatta and tonight's grilled tails). And, a couple of years ago on vacation, I had it every day for 10 days, sometimes twice. So, I figured I should be directly responsible for one's death for once. I haven't made peace with it yet, but I will.  This is what happens when one likes to eat other living things.

Anyway, enough with this -- let's move on to the Demonstrations, shall we?

I made Sauce Américaine/Armoricaine by taking my freshly killed and chopped lobster body (I had a big lobster, so just used one -- the book says to use 1 lb., 11/2 oz. of lobster bodies w/shells and my guy was 1.6 lbs.) and sautéeing the pieces in vegetable oil for about five minutes, until they turned orange and gave off a strong aroma.  Then, in went some carrot and onion mirepoix, which I sautéed for a few minutes, until soft. Cognac followed, and I flambéed it, then added in some white wine and brought it all to a simmer for about 10 minutes, until it had reduced by about half.  To that, I added fish stock, chopped canned tomatoes (drained), tomato paste, two peeled/crushed garlic cloves, and a sprig of tarragon, salt and pepper.  This was brought back to a bare simmer and cooked for about 40 minutes until a nice stock had formed (I skimmed the surface frequently).

The stock was then strained through my trusty chinois and into a clean pan where it as brought back to a simmer for another 15 minutes until it had a deep flavor.  In the meantime, I made a liaison with 2 TBS butter and flour, then whisked it into the sauce.  I lowered the heat and whisked off and on for about 10 minutes more.  Then, I removed from heat, swirled in some more butter (about 3 TBS) and added in some fresh chopped parsley, tarragon and chervil, with more salt and pepper to taste.  It smelled terrific and we will have with grilled lobster tails tonight.  Yum!

My last Demonstration was Court Bouillon, the aromatic liquid that is used primarily for poaching seafood.  There was the normal recipe made with white wine, and then Court-Bouillon Vinaigré (Vinegar Court-Bouillon), made with white wine vinegar. 

Both involved 3 liters of water, and an enormous amount of onions and carrots émincé (thinly sliced).  The regular version took 1.5 lbs each, and the vinegar version, 8.5 lbs each!  The basic recipe is to combine the water and the wine (or vinegar) with the onions and carrots, as well as parsley stems, thyme,  bay leaves (3-5 of them) and coarse salt in a stock pot.

Then, you bring to a boil and then lower the heat to a gentle simmer for about 20 minutes. Then, you add in 10 peppercorns and simmer for another 10 minutes, then remove from the heat, cool, and strain through a chinois, then move on with a specific recipe (which the book did not suggest, so I will use it for the next time I make scallops or mussels, etc.)

It was a lovely, fragrant broth, and I can imagine how great it will taste with seafood.

And that's it!  
Up next is Session 17: Braising and Marinades.


Lobster on Foodista