Sunday, January 10, 2010

Lobster a la Britannia from Delmonicos

With 3000 recipes, Delmonico's most famous chef, Charles Ranhofer’s Epicurean is an bottomless goldmine of 19th c classics. Think about it… if Julie of Julie & Julia fame had cooked The Epicurean instead of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1, she would still be at it!! I thought I'd give you another one of his gems since I did have a Ranhofer extravaganza for New Years and I love to share!
Delmonico's Kitchen 1902
I know, you may be thinking that you need all of these guys in your kitchen to make Ranhofer's dishes but you don't! A few stocks and some simple-to-prepare white sauces and you're good to go.
Did you know that Ranhofer ran a locavore restaurant? Delmonicos had their own gardens in Brooklyn (yes, Brooklyn!) and championed the use of beautiful and diverse produce on their gargantuan menu. Lobster and oysters were still plentiful in NY in the 19th century. At one point lobster was so ubiquitous that it was fed to prisoners who would groan..."please no more lobster!!" Our pilgrim forefathers felt the same way. When they settled in the New World, there were vast numbers of these lumbering decapods that were impossibly easy to harvest from NY shores. They are not so plentiful these days but far more prized and, in Ranhofer's hands, ever so delectable. Remember, this was the man that perfected Lobster Newberg that was originally Lobster Wenberg after a sea captain who did the first version of the dish impromptu at the restaurant by ordering up a chafing dish and some ingredients. When he had a fight with Delmonico the name was forever changed to Lobster Newberg. Ranhofer polished the recipe to what we know today (recipe HERE).

Lobster a la Britannia
2 lobsters, 1 ½ to 2-pounds each
1 carrot
1 onion
A hand full of parsley, thyme
1 Bay leaf
2 T White Wine Vinegar
2 c mushroom essence*
2 c velouté*
¼ c glace de viande (reduce 2c. chicken or beef stock slowly till syrupy—if bought stock, make sure there is no salt!!!!! You should have between ½ -1/4 cup)
½ c Madeira (Charleston Sercial)
Salt & pepper to taste
¼ t. cayenne
¼ t. nutmeg
½ Lb. mushroom tops, sautéed and sliced
½ Lb. small artichoke hearts, cooked and sliced
2 egg yolks, beaten
2 T chopped parsley
After making the mushroom essence and the veloute and having the glace de viande ready, boil the vegetables and herbs in a large pot of water for 20 minutes Cook the lobsters for 7-8 minutes in this liquid to cover (put in one at a time and allow to return to a boil before adding the next one or kill first). Cool lobsters. Remove meat from claws and tail (reserve rest and shells for a bisque later on) and keep warm in a little lobster water. Take the creamy parts from the bodies and rub them through a sieve. Take Mushroom reduction, and velouté and reduce slightly. Add the Glace de Viande and Madeira and spices. Add the egg yolks and sieved creamy lobster and stir in over very low heat till thickened.
Place the lobster meat on a plate, ½ of the tail (split length-wise) and 1 piece of claw meat.
Place the artichokes and mushrooms on the plate. Spoon sauce over all. Serves 4 as an appetizer, 2 main course.
Follow this recipe for *mushroom essence, couldn’t be simpler!
Mushroom Essence
Put one pound of mushrooms cut into quarters in a saucepan with the juice of 1/2 a lemon, salt and a pint of stock. Cook for 10 minutes, covered. Cool and strain. Use the delicious mushrooms for another dish
4 T Butter
4 T Flour
2 Cup hot chicken stock
Melt the butter and add the flour. Cook for a few moments taking care not to scorch the flour. Add the stock gradually and cook till thickened for 20 minutes.
Next time, my post will be about Ambergris from the lovely Ambergris Co. NZ This is such an exciting product… hopefully you will be able to get yourself some in time to make an unforgettable Valentine’s delight!
1", 2 gram piece of Ambergris
At $10,000. a pound... this is truly a dusky gem of the ocean... but don't worry, you only need a few grains to make an amazing dish!


Barbara said...

HEAVEN. Absolute heaven on a plate. (And that's quite a gorgeous plate, too!)

Deana Sidney said...

Barbara> Thanks so much! The plate is one of my favorites. A 19th c fish set that looks like Sir John Tenniel (of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" fame) had a hand in creating...full of 6 different designs of wonderful sea glad you liked it! I am sorry I only had a minute to photograph it with my new camera...a camera that I am not quite comfortable with yet!

Sarah said...

Makes my mouth water. Love your flatware, too. Ambergris? I don't know about ambergris.

Deana Sidney said...

Sarah>Soon you will know about it... I can't wait to tell you... just a is one of the pillars of the perfume pantheon, but was used in royal cuisine for centuries! Thanks about the flatware... an early 20th c. fish set... with fish swimming on the blades and bowls of the forks... perfect for a pisces!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

He was definitely ahead of his time with using local produce and prisoners being fed lobster? Sign me up for a prison stint if it means being fed lobster :P

Tanya said...

M and I are going to be celebrating an anniversary soon, and this sounds just heavenly. Thank you, as always, for the great recipe and history.

Ooh, I made the Persimmon Pudding's sauce for a similarly sweet dish and I'm sad to say, not quite as good as what you made for us, but getting there.

Phoo-D said...

What a luscious dish! This sounds marvelous and worthy of a very special occasion.

Deana Sidney said...

Lorraine>Yes, he was... and it is true about lobster being offered to prisoners... yet strangely, lobster and oysters were also eaten by the rich...go figure!
Tanya> Sorry your sauce wasn't perfect...check the lemons! This recipe would be great for an anniversary!
Phoo-D> It is great for a special occasion... like serving history that tastes great!

Faith said...

This is nothing short of sublime. I think this would make quite a fantastic Valentine's dish also! :)

Becky said...

That looks delightful! Makes me want to try my hand at shellfish (which I've never attempted to prepare).

Deana Sidney said...

Faith>Thanks, it really is good...maybe not as good as chocolate...but...lobster is amazing

Becky>Lobsters aren't so hard to do....and they taste soooo good!

Nazarina A said...

My sweetie and I just enjoyed lobster thermidor at the Cheeca Lodge & Spa while on vacation in Islamorada. Your preparation and presentation of lobster a la Britannia are equally impressive!

Anonymous said...

Oh I didn't know you could use Ambergris in food and there's me living a few paces from a New Zealand beach! I look forward to reading your next post. Gosh, if I knew how to identify it I would send you some if it got washed up, that is of course if it passed customs.

Anonymous said...


I would LOVE to give you the recipe for yoghurt risotto but it's not mine to give!! I think Adam has written about it on his blog though so check out MadridLab.

Cheers, Darren Purchese

Deana Sidney said...

Nazarina> Using the stock with the lobster is a little unusual...that's why I wanted to try it! Thanks.
peasepudding> Yes you can... click on the link to see more photos of what it looks like.. it floats up in NZ all the time!
Darren> thanks for the advice... on to guys are great!

Mae said...

Artichokes and mushrooms with lobster... oh my, so great. Wonderful history for the Lobster Newburg, too!

Can't wait to learn more about ambergris...

Pam said...

Yummy, when I was at the CIA one of our first dishes was Lobster Newberg. They never told us the history though. Thanks for sharing. Always fun to read your blog.

Deana Sidney said...

Mae>good to know even then restauranteurs could be little Napoleons!
Pam> This is different from Newberg but a cousin...Thanks for visiting!

Deborah said...

I'm not even a huge lobster fan, but this looks amazing!

Deana Sidney said...

Deborah>thanks for stopping by... lobster is a good thing especially with this sauce... I never heard of using that lobster cream before but it has a lovely delicate flavor. Those old guys were very smart!

Karine said...

Wowow stunning job! It looks amazing :) I love, love lobster :)

Deana Sidney said...

Karine> thanks for the visit... it's an old style way to make lobster... but old can be good!

Modern Comfort Food said...

What an extraordinarily interesting and beautiful site you have and how much a labor of love it clearly is. I'm planning to start with this dish, which looks absolutely sensational. And then start looking for ambergris... I'm smitten with the idea of it. Thank you so much.

Deana Sidney said...

Modern Comfort food> How kind you are.. click on the link to get the ambergris... they are lovely people!