Monday, August 22, 2011

Daniel Boulud’s Stovetop Lobster and Clambake

         I have to admit, I don’t publish a recipe that doesn’t turn out right.  My whole premise is that if I can cook it perfectly, you can cook it perfectly.  So with all the 200 plus recipes on Chewing the Fat, if you can follow the directions, you can end up with something tasty.  That being said, sometimes I completely hit one out of the ballpark.  And today’s dish is a home run from the first morsel you put in your mouth to the last bit of broth that you’ll zealously sop up with the last crust of baguette.  It is that good. 

         I realize this is no weeknight 30-minute supper.  However, it is high vacation time here on Long Island.  These last two weeks of August are a scramble to enjoy the beaches and barbecues, clambakes and farewell cocktail parties.  So I am putting this on Chewing the Fat on a Monday, in hopes that one night in the next fourteen, you’ll put aside thoughts of back to school and back to the grind and cook this magnificent memory of summer.    This is an extravagant dish that is worth every moment you put into it. And I confess, I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my friend, Keith, a truly great cook, who helped out enormously by cooking and taking apart the lobster absolutely perfectly.  He did this early in the day so you really can make this recipe in two parts: preparing the lobster and then making the rest of the clambake.
Nantucket Lobster Shack courtesy of Chris Frailey
         Since I was a boy summering on Nantucket, Massachusetts, lobster has always been one of the great joys on summer.  This deliciously delicate meat has rules attached to it:  It must be bought live and never overcooked or it will toughen up.  It is best served moist and flavorful and that’s what this recipe allows.  In our family, we loved it. Thanks to our proximity to lots of lobster, it was a very affordable luxury.  So we ate it frequently and we even have a lobster tale in our family lore. 
A cottage very similar to ours which was called
"The House in the Lane"
My younger sister, Ann, was an animal rights advocate before anyone ever uttered the name PETA.  On the last day of one our idyllic Nantucket summers, Ann took it upon herself to free Louie, or whatever she had named a particular lobster, from a large brown paper bag of the crustaceans.  She let the lobster loose under the back seat of the Jeep we rode around the island in.  Since there were always tons of friends and relations around, the missing lobster was thought to be part of a miscount of some kind.   But nobody really thought much about it.
The next day, the Jeep was moved into the shed for the season and we went home.  The following year, the day our extended family arrived in Nantucket for the summer, the door to the shed was unlocked.  The smell was simply unbelievable and overpowering.  Despite heroic efforts on the part of a clean-up crew that was enlisted to sanitize the Jeep, nothing could remove the odor.  The Jeep was declared a write-off.  Since it was a World War II relic, the loss was taken stoically.  But never again was a missing lobster not taken seriously and under the seat checks were performed with the proficiency of the CIA. 
Daniel Boulud
But back to a far more delicious memory: Daniel Boulud’s recipe. Daniel Boulud is one of my heroes.  We’ve already featured his Chop Chop Gingered Shrimp salad on these pages.  This second recipe might lead you to believe that Chef Boulud grew up next to the sea.  To the contrary, the Chef grew up on a farm outside Lyons, France.  But his culinary career has taken him everywhere from Copenhagen to Singapore.  And along the way he has certainly learned his way around seafood. 
         This recipe is from Elle Décor where Chef Boulud writes a monthly food column called “Daniel’s Dish”.  It’s what the French would call ‘vaut le voyage’ (worth the trip) just to buy the magazine for what he puts on offer there.  His admonishments for this recipe state that you shouldn’t feel tied to using all the ingredients. I didn’t. We left out the mussels that were called for, and upped the size of the shrimp.  (I’m giving you the original version so that you can decide.)
Finally Chef Boulud admits “this recipe involves a little bit of prep work in the beginning, but if you can get everything done in advance, you won’t be stuck in the kitchen and separated from your guests—and isn’t that the very essence of an all-American summer meal?”  I couldn’t have said it better myself, Chef Boulud.  Here is the recipe:

2 live lobsters (1.5 lb. each)

¼ lb. slab bacon, diced
½ lb. cooked bratwurst, cut into 1.5" slices

1 lb. cippolini onions, peeled and quartered

1 medium leek, well rinsed and chopped

12 small new potatoes (about 1" diameter)
1 T red chili flakes
2 ears of yellow corn, sliced into rounds
2 cups dry white wine
½ lb. (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3 dozen small littleneck clams, scrubbed
2 dozen mussels, scrubbed, beards removed
1 lb. small shrimp, shells on
3 T chopped fresh parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil, and place a bowl of ice water on the side. Plunge the lobsters into the water, claws first, and simmer for 4 minutes. Remove with a pair of tongs and transfer to the ice water to cool. Separate the claws from the lobsters. Remove the tails from the bodies by pulling them apart, and, on a cutting board, split tails in half lengthwise with a large knife. Pull the heads from the torsos and reserve one head for garnish. Split the torsos in half lengthwise.
Heat a 5-quart Dutch oven or large pot over medium heat and add the bacon. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes, then add the bratwurst and continue to cook until browned.
Add the onions, chopped leek, potatoes, and chili flakes, and cook, stirring, until leek is softened. Add the corn, wine, and butter, and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.
Check seasoning, and then add the clams. Cover, steam for 3 minutes, then add the mussels, shrimp, and lobster (except for the head).
Cover and continue to steam for about 4 minutes or longer, until all the mussels and clams have opened. Use a turkey baster to moisten and glaze the top of the seafood and vegetables with the juice at the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley; place the reserved lobster head in the center for garnish, and serve family style. Serves 6-8.