Lobster Thermidor [thuuhr-mih-dohr]
A dish composed of lobster tails from which the cooked meat is removed, chopped and combined with a BECHAMEL flavored with white wine, shallots, tarragon and mustard. The sauced lobster is spooned back into the shells, sprinkled with parmesan cheese and broiled until golden brown. Crab and shrimp are also sometimes prepared in this manner. The dish is thought to have been named by Napoleon after the month in which he first tasted it (the eleventh month, July 19 to August 17, according to the French Revolutionary calendar).
- 250ml milk
- 3 bay leaves
- ½ small onion, thickly sliced
- 6 black peppercorns
- 1 cooked lobster (about 750g)
- 45g butter
- 15g plain flour
- 50g shallots, finely chopped
- 120ml dry white wine
- 1 tsp English mustard
- 1 tsp chopped fresh tarragon
- 1 tsp chopped fresh chives
- 1 tbsp double cream (optional)
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- 40g Gruyère, finely grated
- Put the milk, bay leaves, onion and peppercorns in a small pan. Bring to the boil, then set aside for 10 minutes for the flavours to infuse.
- Meanwhile, remove the meat from the cooked lobster and cut it into small, chunky pieces. Keep the tomalley (the grey-green liver) and any roe separate. Put the cleaned out half-shells in a small baking tray. Preheat the grill to high.
- For the sauce, reheat the milk gently. Melt 20g of the butter in another small pan, stir in the flour and cook for a few seconds. Strain in a little of the hot milk and whisk until smooth. Gradually whisk in the rest of the milk, bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring now and then. You should be left with 200ml sauce with the consistency of thick cream.
- While the sauce is simmering, melt the remaining butter in another small pan, add the shallots and cook gently until soft but not browned. Add the wine, turn up the heat and simmer rapidly until the liquid has almost disappeared. Stir in the white sauce, together with the mustard, tarragon, chives, cream (if using), cayenne pepper and 25g of the grated cheese. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
- Stir the lobster meat into the sauce, with the tomalley and any roe if you wish, then divide the mixture equally between the cleaned half-shells. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese, slide under the grill, then cook for 3-4 minutes until golden and bubbling. Serve with new potatoes and a light, green salad.