Lobster in Chili Cream with Lemon-Basil Basmati

I have not done much cooking with lobster.  I don’t have much trouble accepting that living creatures are butchered for my dinner, but I hate the idea of putting a live creature in scalding water.  I also don’t like paying a galling amount of money for a lobster tail.  So I was quite excited when Earth Fare had a special offer this week for two lobster tails for $9.  I bought 4.

I scouted the internets for some recipe ideas, but didn’t find myself excited by all the butter, cream, and oils used in so many of the recipes.  For instance, a sauce for 4 servings required 1 cup peanut oil and 2 cups heavy cream.  I already rode the cholesterol carousel once this month, thank you!  But for some reason, my belly wanted a cream sauce for this lobster.  A fairly thick one at that.  I wanted something with a robust flavor as well, but not something that would completely mask the subtle flavor of the lobster.

Here’s what I came up with:

4 lobster tails, uncooked, shells removed and reserved.

Lobster in Chili Cream with Lemon-Basil Rice

Lobster in Chili Cream with Lemon-Basil Rice

2 T. corn starch
2 T. chili powder (I used Earth Fare’s blend for this)
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
1 cup sliced crimini mushrooms
2 T. olive oil
2 T. butter
1 1/2 c. half and half

1 cup basmati rice
2 c water
Juice from two lemons
1 T. dried basil

First, I started the rice, liquids and basil in the rice cooker.  Have I ever said that I love my rice cooker?  I love my rice cooker.  Anyway, I started the rice.  I would probably have preferred to use chicken stock in place of the water, but I was making extra rice for a dish for the church dinner tomorrow, and wanted that dish to be vegan, so, water…

Once the rice was ready, I started on the lobster part.  I cut through the shells and removed the meat.  The shells went into a stockpot with the half and half, and simmered while I worked on the rest of the meal.

The mushrooms were thinly sliced and ready for the pan.  I cut the lobster tails into 5 or 6 pieces each, then patted them dry with paper towels.  These were then tossed in a bowl that had the cornstarch, chili powder and cayenne mixed together.

The coated lobster pieces then went into the sauté pan wherein the oil and butter were hot and ready, along with the mushrooms.   This was sautéed until the lobster was cooked through and the mushrooms were tender but not limp – probably 6 minutes.  I strained the hot half and half over the lobster and stirred it until the sauce was thickened and well combined with the seasonings from the pan. Just for fun, I added a splash of peppered vodka, a little sea salt, and a pinch of sugar (which was needed to offset the slight harshness from the vodka.  If I hadn’t used the vodka, I would not have needed the sugar.

To serve, I placed a nice little timbale of rice in the center of each bowl, piled the lobster and mushroom mixture down one side of each timbale, and pooled the chili cream around the bottom of each bowl.  Garnished with a few chopped green onions (green part only), and served with some fresh baguette and a glass of chardonnay, and it was a festive dinner.


A Glorious Ride on the Cholesterol Carousel

Are there any Department Stores out there that still have their own restaurants inside?  I haven’t seen one in a long time.  Many years ago, when little cafes, delis, and restaurants were still found nestled into the corners of the Dayton’s, Marshall Field’s, and Goldblatt’s stores, I worked at such a place.  It had some wonderful little dishes – some quirky, such as a jelly omelet, and some delightful, such as their signature soup, cream of mushroom.  That stuff was so thick you could stand a spoon in it, and full of earthy mushroom flavor.  And yes, cream.  It was garnished with a swirl of unsweetened whipped cream that spread like a velvet carpet across the top of the steaming bowl.  I was obsessed.  So much so that, after I left there, I took it upon myself to create my own version.  It is now a favorite, but one I only dare make once or twice a year – usually for the church soup suppers.  We have one just before Advent, after the sanctuary has been cleaned and decorated, and once at Easter, for the Maundy Thursday.  It’s simple, really, but delicious and soul-satisfying.

Snad’s Cream of Mushroom Soup

Cream of Mushroom Soup

2-4 Tbls unsalted butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 pound white mushrooms, cleaned and finely chopped (I use the pulse setting on the food processor)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 quarts chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 -1 cup roux*
1 quart heavy whipping cream
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste

Melt butter in the bottom of a heavy soup pot.  Sauté the onion until tender.  Add mushrooms and garlic and continue to sauté until mushrooms are tender and have released their juice.  Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat and add the roux, stirring constantly, to thicken.  I use a China hat or sieve and whisk to incorporate the roux, to avoid creating lumps.  At this point, you could season the soup and serve it, if you are really trying to watch your cholesterol.  It’s pretty tasty as is.  Or you could use milk, or even 2% milk, if you insist.†  But, if you want that velvety, luscious mouth-feel and oh-so-decadent taste, you really need to go with cream.  If you are going to go all the way, be sure to thicken the soup enough so that another quart of liquid won’t make it too thin.  This is supposed to be a substantial soup, after all.

So go ahead.  Add the cream.  Add the whole quart, gradually, while whisking, to ensure it doesn’t curdle.  Gently warm the soup to serving temperature and season with salt to taste.  That’s really it.  Serve this soup with a small salad of field greens and some crusty, lusty bread ( with butter, of course) and enjoy.

* Roux

A roux is essential for making many soups and sauces.  I keep some on hand.  It is shelf stable for a long time.  Simply melt some butter in a heavy skillet.  I use a cast iron skillet for the evenness of the heat.  Once the butter is melted, add an equal weight of all-purpose flour.  Stir to completely combine and return the skillet to a medium-low heat, stirring occasionally.  Or, place the skillet in a 250˚F oven for 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how much roux you are making.  I used 8 ounces of butter and flour each and it took about 40 minutes to get just slightly brown and nutty smelling.  Use what you need to use for your recipe, and put the rest in a container with a tight-fitting lid, once it is cooled.

† Using Lower Fat Dairy Instead of Cream

If you insist: it’s probably a good idea to temper the milk to prevent curdling, before you add it to the hot soup.  Place your milk in a large bowl and add a few ladles of the hot soup.  Whisk to combine, then add this mixture to your large pot of soup, while whisking.  Carry on.  But it won’t be as much fun.  You have been warned.