Roast Lobster with Tomato Butter
Beetlebung Farm - Martha's Vineyard, MA
"I don't need a party to eat lobster, but it's fun to make it an occasion. And while I still love a midsummer lobster dinner, my favorite time for lobster is the fall—it reminds me of the last catch just before we pulled up the pots. A lobster you take in the fall tastes a little more wild to me than the sweet, softer-shelled summer lobsters. There is something particularly satisfying about eating your fill with close friends, on a cool night, using bread to mop up all the butter and juices, not caring if it is all a bit messy." —Chris Fischer
2 (1 1/4-pound) lobsters, females if available
1/4 cup tomato paste
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
3/4 cup softened butter
2 teaspoons chopped fresh marjoram
1 small baguette split lengthwise or 1 loaf of country bread thickly sliced; toasted or grilled
To prepare the lobsters, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and organize an ice bath. Separate the tails and claws from the bodies. Blanch the tails and claws for 5 minutes then pull them out of the pot and put them into the ice bath to stop the cooking. Drain the lobster claws and tails then remove the meat from the shells. (This can be done several hours ahead—refrigerate the lobster until you are ready to make the pan roast.)
Retrieve the roe (if there is any) from the bodies of the females by pulling out the dark green sack. Put the roe sacks in a small container and refrigerate until you are ready to finish cooking the lobsters. (I refrigerate or freeze the bodies for stock.)
To make the tomato butter, combine the tomato paste and vinegar in a small pan and reduce over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until you are left with about 2 tablespoons of tomato concentrate. Allow the tomato to cool, then stir it into the softened butter. Add the marjoram, then season with salt and the juice from half a lemon. Taste the butter and adjust the seasoning if necessary with more salt and lemon juice. Pack the butter into 2 ramekins, cover, and refrigerate.
To finish cooking the lobsters, squeeze the roe from the sacks into a small bowl. Remove the vein that runs down the back of the lobster tails and then cut the tails into good-sized chunks. Cut the claws into pieces about the same size. Pull the tomato butter from the refrigerator and let it warm up a little. Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter over very low heat in a flameproof serving dish big enough to hold all the lobster. Cut a lemon in quarters, squeeze the juice into the pan, and add the rinds. (If you want to you can add a tablespoon of water—this helps to keep the butter from “breaking”.) Season the lobster and pan sauce lightly with salt. Add the roe to the pan. Warm the lobster and roe, basting the meat with the butter mixture until the lobster is heated through and the roe turns bright red. Remove the lemon rinds and serve the lobster accompanied by the toasted bread and tomato butter—spread it ahead or do as I do and just let everyone dig in as they will. (Save any extra tomato butter—it is great on sandwiches).
Variation: Lobster with Spaetzle
Spaetzle—free-form pasta popular in Switzerland, Austria, and Germany—is easy to make and wonderful with lobster. Follow the recipe above, par-cooking the lobster, removing the meat from the shell, and making the tomato butter. Then make spaetzle batter by combining 2 cups of flour and 1 teaspoon of salt with 2 beaten eggs and 1 cup of water. Mix everything together, then let the batter rest at room temperature for 1 hour.
Set a colander over a pot of boiling salted water. Working in batches, force the batter through the colander into the boiling water. Cook the spaetzle until they float, then transfer them to an oiled baking sheet to cool. When all the spaetzle are cooked and cooled, dress them with a little more oil.
Heat a large skillet over high heat. When the pan is hot, add several tablespoons of spaetzle. Working in batches, toast the spaetzle, tossing them in the oil until they are golden brown. When the spaeztle is toasted, wipe out the skillet and add the lobster, a dollop of tomato butter, and some roe (if there is any), then season with salt and lemon juice. Add the spaetzle and cook together until the lobster is heated through. Add some chopped basil or fennel blossoms and serve.