Thanksgiving is here, and of course there will be the usual turkey dinners with stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, candied yams, and the like. When these traditional dishes are done well, they cannot be outdone in terms of pure satisfaction. And when you emerge from the tryptophan induced haze and reach for that partially chewed on drumstick or another helping of candied yams, nothing is more comforting.
There are already many cooks and cookbooks that teach ways to prepare turkey, from the usual oven roasting to deep frying the bird. I would like to present here, for those who are interested in non-turkey or ham options, a few alternatives to liven up your Thanksgiving dinner.
Thanksgiving, in my view, is one of the more meaningful holidays. There is something truly gratifying in the gathering of kin and friends to give thanks to the divine for the gift of life and and life-giving food. I call this my lobster Thanksgiving.
Lobster bisque is a richly satisfying soup if it is done well. Nothing compares to its velvety goodness:
6 lobster bodies chopped (tails and claws removed)
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 bunch leeks, halved lengthwise
2 onions rough chopped
4 stalks celery rough chopped
3 carrots, rough chopped
1 bunch fresh thyme
Zest of 2 oranges
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup orange cognac
1cup all-purpose flour
6 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
Finely grated orange zest, for garnish
chives, for garnish
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot over medium heat and melt 3 tablespoons butter in it. Add the chopped lobster bodies and heads and their juices, the leeks, 1 onion, celery, carrots, 1/2 the thyme, 1/2 the orange zest, and the tomato paste. Cook until the shells are red and the vegetables are soft, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and carefully pour in 1/4 cup cognac. Carefully ignite the cognac and let the alcohol burn off.
Meanwhile preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add remaining onion, thyme, bay leaf, and orange zest along with the peppercorns and let this mixture cook, turning constantly until caramelized, about 10 minutes. Add the lobster claws and tails; toss to coat with the fat and flavors. Remove the pan from the heat and carefully pour in the remaining 1/4 cup cognac. Ignite the cognac with a long kitchen match and let the alcohol burn off.
Put the pan into 400 degree oven and roast until the lobster pieces are cooked through, about 15 minutes. Remove the lobster pieces and set aside. When they are cool enough to handle, remove the lobster meat from the claws and tails. Chop the meat roughly and reserve. Add vegetables and lobster shells in to previous batch and cook. Add water to cover and stir up all the browned bits on the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Return to the heat, sprinkle in the flour, stir, and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the cream and bring to a boil. Immediately lower the heat and gently simmer until the soup is reduced and thickened, about 30 to 45 minutes. Strain this into a clean pot and season with salt and pepper if needed; keep warm.
Serve the bisque in warmed soup bowls and add lobster pieces to each bowl.
The abundance of fresh and affordable lobster in Maine has fostered many casual as well as creative uses for the crustacean. Lobster rolls are sandwiches of mayonnaise- based chilled lobster salad stuffed into a toasted sandwich roll. You can also use a panini roll or any other bread of your choice, even a hotdog bun. Here we use a baguette.
4 cups of lobster meat from steamed lobsters
1/2 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and finely diced
2 to 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
Pickles and potato chips as accompaniment
1 cup mayonnaise
2 stalks of celery, diced
1 bunch of green onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
Zest and juice from 1 lemon
1 tablespoon flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 tablespoons basil chiffonade (leaves rolled and finely sliced)
salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste
If using live lobsters, steam or boil them. Be sure not to overcook them. Let cool at room temperature. Use a heavy knife to crack and remove the meat from the claws, knuckles and tails. Remove the cartilage from the claws and the intestines from the tails of the cooked meat. Cut the meat into 1/2-inch dice. You may pick all the meat from the carcass and add it to the meat or freeze the carcass for soup or broth.
Place the cucumber in a colander for at least 5 minutes to drain the excess liquid.
Combine all ingredients except lobster in a mixing bowl. Rough chop lobster meat an mix gently into dressing with a rubber spatula.
Rough chop lobster meat an mix gently into dressing with a rubber spatula. Add cucumber. Season with salt and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
For the Lobster Rolls:
Preheat a large heavy skillet (12 to 14-inches) over medium-low heat (a black cast-iron pan is perfect). If you have a broiler that will also work. Split a baguette open 3/4 of the way lengthwise and cut into 4 6-inch sandwiches. Butter the inside generously and toast under broiler until golden brown. Fill with shredded lettuce and chilled lobster salad. Place each roll on a small paper or china plate; garnish with pickles or condiments of your choice. Serve at once.