Citizens! Your culinary north-star, the Viscount of Victual Virality who leads from the front-lines of culinary revolution – YOUR TFD! – is sadly all TOO viral this week. Yes, I am sad to inform you that I am flat on my back with a respiratory 🦠 so awful, so heinous, so murderously psychotic, that my coughs literally boom through the sound barrier. So fell is this microscopic assassin of joy that I feel it must have been sneezed straight from Satan’s proboscis itself! No matter, even on death’s threshold, I stretch forth my generous hand and grant you this benison of classic French cuisine – renowned across time and space as lobster l’Américaine!
As eruditely noted on food reference.com:
Lobster a l’Américaine, or for its full French name, Homard a l’Américaine, is a lobster dish of dubious origin.
It is decidedly French, but there ends all that is definitive about its provenance. A popular story is that a chef by the name of Pierre Fraisse, (who hailed from the Languedoc region of France), whipped up the dish circa 1860 in Paris for a group of late night diners.
He had spent time cooking in the US and thus gave the dish its American tag line, “Americaine,” or so they say. Others claim the dish was already on the menu before Fraisse arrived and originated, much like Fraisse, in the Languedoc.
There exists a contingent who insist the dish is actually named after Armorica, the ancient name for Brittany. However, as various food writers have pointed out, the dish contains oil, garlic, and tomatoes, all ingredients not indigenous to Brittany or its cuisine. This may explain yet another theory that the dish sprung from the Mediterranean.
A final and quirky postulate is the dish received its moniker because it was served to first class passengers on ships headed for America. It never ceases to amaze me just how many classic concoctions are mired in controversy over their origins.
The dish experienced a huge wave of popularity in the 1960’s, where it became a staple menu item on so-called ‘Continental’ restaurant menus in America – perhaps unsurprisingly given its name!
Today, the dish is rarely seen and when it does make a re-appearance, it’s usually tough from overcooking, harsh from the use of too-much alcohol (or failing to light up the cognac to burn off the alcohol) and swimming in a tomato sauce that all too obviously was cracked open from a tin.
I – the promised One who will rise like Lazarus from my bed-ridden entombment at the appointed hour – aim to restore l’Américaine to its noble roots and share the one true path to resurrected glory with you!
To start, you need the best-possible crustaceans – you can buy supremely-fresh live lobsters from here.
If at all possible, please do use only female lobsters for this l’Américaine recipe, as the flesh is not only more tender, but you get the delicious roe for the sauce as well! You should dispatch the lobsters quickly and humanely as noted in the recipe – if that is too much for a delicate sensibility, you can put them in the freezer for 10 minutes first to put them to sleep and then drop them in boiling water for a minute as an alternative.
Battle on – the GeneralissimoPrint
- 2 (1 ½-pound) lobsters, strong preference for females
- 9 Tbsp. olive oil
- 9 Tbsp. butter
- 1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 2 shallots, finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ cup Cognac
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 lb. ripe tomatoes, chopped and juice reserved
- 1 Tbsp. black peppercorns
- 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
- 1 cup lobster or shrimp stock or use clam juice or use TFD’s preference – a scant ¾ cup shellfish stock, a scant ¼ cup chicken stock and 1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. veal demi-glace
- ⅓ cup dry vermouth – TFD prefers Noilly Prat brand
- 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh chervil (strongly preferred) or parsley
- 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh tarragon (if using chervil as noted above, cut tarragon to ½ Tbsp. and add ½ Tbsp. chopped basil)
- 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
- 1 Tbsp. flour
- lemon juice, sea salt, freshly-ground black pepper and cayenne
- 1 large baguette or other crusty loaf
- Chopped fresh chervil and basil or parsley and tarragon for garnish
- Quickly and humanely kill lobsters by positioning the tip of a chef’s knife in the center of the head and plunging the blade in between the eyes.
- Working over a shallow bowl to catch juices, break off and crack claws. Cut each lobster tail into thick slices. Remove heads. (Save for making stock, if desired.) Cut body shells in half; remove and discard the intestinal tube which is exposed when the body of the lobster is cut open; reserve coral and tomalley and all the juices left in the bowl.
- Combine butter and olive oil in a thick-bottomed frying pan; add lobster pieces and sauté for 5 minutes. Remove and reserve.
- Sauté finely-chopped carrot, onion, shallots and garlic in the same pan until onion is transparent. Place lobster pieces on the bed of vegetables; pour over vermouth and simmer for 3 minutes. Add warmed brandy and flame.
- Add tomatoes, tomato paste, bay leaf, lobster liquids, clam juice or stock, herbs, peppercorns and salt, to taste. Cover the pan and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Remove lobster; keep warm. Simmer tomato sauce, uncovered, until slightly reduced. Blend in the tomalley and coral, creamed with 1 Tbsp. each flour and butter, and simmer until thickened; add reserved lobster juices, simmer 1 minute. Strain the sauce and flavor to taste with lemon juice, salt, pepper and cayenne.
- Transfer lobster and sauce to a deep serving platter and garnish with fresh herbs. To serve, divide among wide, shallow bowls and provide slices of crusty bread for sopping up the sauce.
- Category: Recipes
- Calories: 1233.74 kcal
- Sugar: 15.19 g
- Sodium: 2105.08 mg
- Fat: 66.15 g
- Saturated Fat: 24.13 g
- Trans Fat: 1.23 g
- Carbohydrates: 69.88 g
- Fiber: 8.72 g
- Protein: 71.83 g
- Cholesterol: 510.17 mg
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