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Lobster Tarragon

Charlie Burke

One of our favorite recipes for a special Christmas Eve or New Year's dinner is lobster in a creamy tomato tarragon sauce, which I adapted about twenty years ago from a recipe Julia Child published for chicken breasts in a tarragon white wine sauce. Because lobster has an affinity for the anise - like flavor of herbs such as chervil and tarragon, I thought it might work with fresh lobster meat, and we've been making it ever since. This is a rich and somewhat expensive meal which is why we save it for special occasions. Use a good fish stock, which many fish stores provide, or make a stock from lobster shells if you are cooking your own lobster meat (see our archived recipe for lobster and corn chowder for instructions; omit the corn cobs). A mild chicken stock works also. Serve the lobster with spinach, braised leeks or other green vegetable and buttered rice or small pasta such as orzo. Occasionally we increase the sauce ingredients by a half and serve the lobster over linguine. This is the meal to splurge on a good white Burgundy or brut champagne in keeping with the spirit of the holidays.

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For four servings:

  • One pound lobster meat, slightly undercooked (if ordering from a fish market request the lobsters be cooked 3 minutes less than for done; do the same if cooking at home - the meat finishes cooking as the dish is finished)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon or 2 teaspoons dried
  • 1 1/2 cups drained and chopped tomatoes. In summer choose the most flavorful heirloom tomatoes. This time of year, canned tomatoes, your own or purchased, are far superior to tasteless supermarket "fresh" varieties. We use Muir Glen
  • Organic whole tomatoes when ours are gone.
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream - do not substitute light cream which will curdle in the acid sauce
  • 3/4 cup fish, lobster or chicken stock - do not use bottled clam juice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Chop the lobster into 1 -2 inch pieces, leaving claws intact. Heat a medium sauté pan over medium heat and melt butter until it foams. Add shallots and cook, stirring until softened - 2 or 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and tarragon, increasing the heat to high so that the tomatoes boil, losing some of their moisture. Add the stock, cream and wine and continue boiling until the sauce has thickened and reduced. Add salt and several grinds of pepper to taste. If serving immediately, reduce heat until the sauce is just simmering, stir in the lobster and cook for 1 - 2 minutes until the meat is hot. It will continue to cook as you serve it. Serve on warmed plates with your choice of vegetable and starch. The sauce can be made ahead, in which case I suggest the boiling and reduction be done just before adding the meat and serving.

About The Author: An organic farmer and avid cook, writer Charlie Burke is the vice president of the New Hampshire Farmer's Market Association (http://www.nhfma.org). His column & recipes appear weekly in The Heart of New England's newsletter... get a free subscription by sending a blank email to: heartofnewengland-subscribe@yahoogroups.com or visit http://www.TheHeartofNewEngland.com

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