A labour of love if ever there was one! You can use ready-cooked lobster meat, but the flavour just won’t be the same. Note there are two batches of cherry tomatoes! …
It’s a tricky one, Saint Valentine’s Day, for the over-16s. Restaurants can quickly become theatres of self-consciousness, particularly those deemed “romantic” all year round and expected to hard deliver on February 14. Thankfully in France, we also have plenty of brisk, noisy, quite impersonal, yet formal, brasseries, with cosy banquettes, where you can be as demonstrative as you like and no one will notice. Friends Fred and Elliott take themselves to Lipp on Boulevard Saint Germain, as they would on any other evening they fancied a treat. A quick poll amongst my wise French girlfriends harvests varying degrees of energy for hitting the kitchen. For celebrity cook and entrepreneuse, Luana, for example, it’s the one day of the year where she doesn’t cook! Most of the others, shrugging Gallically, simply advise spoiling your loved one with his or her favourite dish.
But I still believe in love, and that Saint Valentine’s is the one night where you really can take your time to gracefully decorate or plate a dish. Why not try my lobster linguine?
40 minutes preparation
50–60 minutes cooking
1 live lobster, about 450/500g
2–3 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled
12/15 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
250g-300g dried linguine or 400g-500g fresh
1/2 bunch of flat-leafed parsley, for decoration
Salt and pepper
For the bisque
1 carrot, peeled
2 stalks of celery about 10cm long
1 large yellow onion peeled
1 tbsp olive oil
12 or so cherry tomatoes, cut in half
2 tsps tomato purée
Prepare the lobster
1. Using a knife, make a cut through the back of the head, in the crack slightly behind the eyes, to kill it swiftly. Separate the head and claws from the body.
2. Empty the heads and set them aside. Break the claws at the base. Cook the bodies and claws in a large pot of salted boiling water for 3 or 4 minutes. Drain and immediately plunge them into a large container of cold water to stop the cooking.
3. By hand or using a knife, remove the flesh from inside the carcasses of the bodies and the claws, avoiding tearing it. Cut the flesh of the claws into large pieces. Reserve the flesh and the carcasses separately.
Prepare the bisque
1. Cut the carrot, celery and onion into 2cm or so thick pieces. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat and sauté gently for about 5 minutes. Set aside and use the pan for the next step.
2. Cook the carcasses of the head, claws and body with a tablespoon of olive oil for 5 minutes over high heat. When they are lightly toasted, add the carrots, onion and celery, and sauté for a further 5 minutes over medium heat. Turn up the heat and deglaze the pan by pouring in the brandy or whiskey and flambéeing the contents carefully.
3. Reduce heat to low, add the tomatoes and tomato purée. Mix, cover with water, and simmer for 20 minutes over low heat. Strain this through a fine sieve, keeping only the liquid. This is your bisque.
Pull it together and serve!
1. In a big, heavy-based frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat and sauté the garlic cloves for 5 minutes. Add 12/15 cherry tomatoes and half the bisque. Continue cooking for about 5 minutes over medium heat. Season.
2. Cook the pasta al dente in a large pot of salted boiling water. Drain it with a slotted spoon, then put it in the pan. Add the rest of the bisque, bring to a boil, mixing well, until the liquid is almost absorbed but taking care that the mixture is not too dry.
3. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over low heat and fry the flesh of the bodies and the pieces of claws for 5 or 6 minutes.
4. Arrange the pasta in two large, shallow pasta bowls, add the panfried lobster pieces and sprinkle with parsley leaves. Serve immediately.
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