Tuesday, January 24, 2006

A revolutionary dish.

Today, January 24th …

Lobster Thermidor is an extravagant, indulgent, classical dish, a dish that no-one makes at home anymore - the reasons for which will become obvious shortly, but have nothing to do with the level of culinary difficulty. A popular story which may be history or myth, says that the dish was invented on this very day in 1894 at the restaurant Maire in Boulevard Saint-Denis in Paris, in honour of the first night of the play “Thermidor”, by Victorien Sardou. Its subject was the French Revolution, which was still a politically sensitive issue 100 years later, and the play was banned after only three performances.

There are other stories of course, but whatever the route, the dish is ultimately named after the month of that name in the short-lived French Revolutionary calendar, one of the warm summer months (now July 19 to August 17). The play’s name was a reference to the political machinations called the “Thermidorean reaction” which occurred on 9 Thermidor 1794, and led to the end of the Reign of Terror and the execution by guillotine of Robespierre the following day.

The lobster must think this explanation is particularly apt, in view of its own last moments and method of execution.

Lobster thermidor.

Split a live lobster in two, lengthwise. Crack the shell of the claws and pick out the meat. Season both halves of the lobster with salt. Pour oil over them and roast them in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes.
Dice the lobster flesh coarsely. Make a stock of white wine, fish fumet [stock] and meat gravy, flavoured with chervil, tarragon, and chopped shallots. Boil it down to a concentrated consistency. Add to this concentrated stock a little very thick Bechamel sauce and some English mustard.
Boil this sauce for a few seconds, then whisk in fresh butter (one third of the volume of the sauce).
Line the two halves of the carcases with a little of this sauce. Fill them with the flesh of the lobster, cover with the remainder of the sauce, sprinkle with grated Parmesan and melted butter and brown quickly in the oven. (Larousse Gastronomique).


If this method of lobster execution makes you squeamish, please do use the standard method of death by immersion in boiling water – in which case a name change to “Lobster PlĂ»voise” would be doubly apt, since January 24th fell in the wet month of that name.

Tomorrow: And so the Lord be thankit.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great Post. I trick I've also learned is to season the boiling water with salt and lemon juice. The lobster is a little more tender and flavorful this way.

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