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Classic Lobster Thermidor Recipe

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Lobster Thermidor
Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images
What can I say about Lobster Thermidor? It is one of those classic recipes that is can be a showstopper on a special occasion. This recipe will work with either a New England lobster or a spiny lobster. Do try to get the tarragon for this recipe even though I know it can be hard to find. It makes a difference, as does the sherry.

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

Yield: Serves four

Ingredients:

  • 2 lobsters
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 2/3 cup white wine
  • 1 cup lobster, fish or chicken stock
  • 2-3 finely chopped shallots
  • 1-2 T. chopped tarragon
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 t. dry mustard
  • 3 T. sherry
  • 1 cup Bechamel sauce (ingredients below)
  • 4 T. butter
  • 1/2 cup lobster or fish (or chicken) stock
  • 1 cup milk
  • A pinch of nutmeg
  • Sweet or hot paprika to garnish

Preparation:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. With a large, sharp chef's knife, split the live lobster in half lengthwise. Start with the head side and work the knife back toward the tail. Starting with the head end kills the lobster instantly.

3. Brush the lobster with olive oil and bake in the oven for 15 minutes.

4. Make the bechamel sauce: Melt the 4 tablespoons of butter, add the 3 tablespoons of flour and cook until it is blond, about 3-4 minutes. Add the lobster stock and stir well to combine. Let this come to a simmer, then slowly add the milk, stirring all the while. Let this come to a simmer, then add some salt and pepper to taste, then the nutmeg. It's very important not to let this boil.

5. Remove the lobster from the oven and let it cool. Then remove all the meat (don't forget the meat in the body!) and chop coarsely.

6. In a small frying pan, add the wine, sherry, lobster stock and the tarragon and boil it down until it is thick, almost a glaze.

7. Add this glaze to the bechamel sauce and stir well to combine.

8. Mix the cream with the egg yolks, then slowly add some of the bechamel-glaze mixture to the cream, stirring all the while. When you get about 1/2 cup of the hot mixture into the cream, pour it all back into the rest of the bechamel-glaze mixture. What you are doing here is tempering the cream-egg mixture so you don't get scrambled eggs in your sauce. Again, do not let this boil.

9. Add the dry mustard and some salt to taste.

10. When the sauce is thickened, add the lobster and mix well.

11. Traditionally, you then fill the empty lobster shells with this mixture and brown in a 375 degree oven for a few minutes. You can, of course, eat the Thermidor outside of the shells in little bowls, or over egg noodles. In either case, sprinkle a little paprika over the top at service.

This dish is excellent with a big white wine. I'd recommend a California Chardonnay, a Spanish Albarino or a white Cotes du Rhone blend.

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