I love Lobster Thermidor. It's probably my favourite meal. I make it every Christmas (it's known chez nous as Traditional Christmas Lobster, or TCL), plus special occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, it's-the-weekend-so-let's-celebrate-with-some-lobster-thermidor, and so on.
Plus, it means that I get to go to my local fishmongers (Evans, in Didsbury) and utter what has to be one of the most pleasing sentences in the English language: "I've come to collect my lobsters, please." Genius. (I order them over the phone in advance to make sure those cheeky Didsburians don't snap them up before I get there.)
Here's a picture of Evans taken in the snow:
Lobster Thermidor is actually a million times easier to make than you think. Here's what you need:
2 x lobsters, 250ml fish stock, 2 tablespoons white wine, large handful of tarragon, 2 x shallots, 60g butter, 2 tablespoons plain flour, 3-4 teaspoons mustard, 250ml milk, 65g parmesan.
The Bible tells you to use live lobsters. Erm, no thank you, not when Evans can take care of that for me. Annie Hall may have made it look rather amusing, but it's not an activity that I have on my to-do list. Evans also split the lobsters in two for me:
Lobsters are so weird looking.
So, take your lobster, and scoop out all the meat from the body (including the brown gungy stuff in the photo below), chop it into smallish pieces, and set it to one side. Put the shells onto a baking tray:
Crack the claws using a mallet. This isn't a special lobster mallet - it's just a regular ol' tool from B&Q. You can ask your fishmonger to do this for you, but they don't always do it very carefully, and sometimes end up detaching the claws from the body, which is not at all the done thing:
Next up, put the fish stock (your fishmonger should be able to provide this, or you can use a cube if necessary), white wine, shallots (roughly chopped), and a large handful of chopped tarragon (don't use all of it) into a small saucepan:
Boil until reduced by half, and then strain the liquid into another pan. Discard the shallots and tarragon.
Melt the butter (mmmm, butter) in a heavy-based pan, and stir in 2 tablespoons of flour. Over a very low heat, slowly add the milk to make a creamy sauce:
As shown in the picture above, it will go lumpy before it goes smooth. If it stays lumpy after some good stirring and heating, then stick it in a blender until it goes smooth, and then return it to the pan. Then stir in the reserved wine and stock mixture, a few teaspoons of mustard (to taste) and some salt and pepper. Chop the remaining tarragon finely and add to the sauce, and then add the lobster meat and stir. Grate the parmesan, and add a small handful to the sauce.
Spoon the lobster mixture into the lobster shells. Top with parmesan. Brush the lobster claws with some olive oil, and grill for about 5 minutes until golden and bubbling:
I served the lobsters with wild rice, and salad with a lemon and basil dressing. This is the kind of meal where it's perfectly acceptable to eat with your fingers (obviously use a spoon to take care of all that delicious sauce first) - and to use cocktail sticks and wooden skewers to prise every last delightful morsel out of the shell and claws:
If you don't end up coated in a thin film of lobster by the end of the meal, you haven't done it properly. Man, that stuff goes everywhere. The last time we had Lobster Thermidor we ended up having to re-paint one of the living room walls, that's how much fun we had :-)
Ah, lobster. How much do I love you? A whole lot, that's how much.
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