Ten years ago, I had a client in Phoenix, Arizona. About a week a month, I’d shuttle out to the desert from Atlanta, do some biz, see some sights, and eat some food. I was really starting my foodie-ness about then, and at one restaurant, I was stunned to taste the best Hawaiian ahi tuna I’d ever had in my life. In Phoenix. More than 5000 miles away from the seas where that fish was caught.
I’m a fan of cooking local; supporting local farms or fishermen or using local ingredients. I think it’s a good thing to do for cuisine, a good thing for the environment, a good thing for local economies.
However, one of my culinary quirks is taking an established cuisine or technique, then throwing in something from halfway around the world. I think part of this comes from that time in Phoenix, where I could nibble on fresh tuna when it was still 105 degrees outside at 8pm. The world still has a lot of problems, but I think there are times where the internet and FedEx have brought ideas and physical chunks of the planet to places which may not have otherwise experienced them. And that can be a good thing.
All of this philosophy is too lofty for last night’s meal, though. I wanted to go a little crazy and throw together far-flung techniques and food, and jam them into one dish with, I hope, a little elegance and extravagance.
So, I made pan-roasted Maine lobster, put it in a corn tortilla nest, covered it with a French-influenced sauce Supreme/Mornay, with plenty of New Mexican Red Chile. And we ate it here — Spring in Florida.
My local fish suppliers had live Maines on sale, so I picked up a couple.
I started, actually, with the tortilla nest as it could sit around off to the side. I cut corn tortillas into strips, arranged them in a strainer into a rough nest, put another strainer on top, then deep-fried them. A little kosher salt when they’re just out of the oil, and they’re ready.
My sister-in-law is from Albuquerque. Last time her parents came out to visit, they brought bags of New Mexico red chile pods, and my sister-in-law happily donated one to my pantry. I cut off the stem ends, seed them, throw them in boiling water, turn off the heat, and let them soak for five or ten minutes. Then, I process them with some of the chile water, and strain through into a bowl to get rid of the stray seeds and skin flakes that didn’t get processed.
Mmmm. Red chile.
For the sauce, I’m wanted to screw around with mother-sauce derivatives. I start with what is basically a velouté — shallots, chicken stock, and roux.
Then, I add in some heavy cream, which sorta takes the sauce from a velouté to a sauce supreme.
Add the red chile, and some white wine.
Later, I’m going to add cheese, which would turn a béchamel to a Mornay, except I’m using a half-assed sauce supreme instead. I could almost call it a sauce Mornay aurore, but I’m using chiles instead of tomatoes, there’s that chicken stock and wine in there, and anyway, long before this point Escoffier would have thrown up his hands at me and gone off muttering.
I only need the tail and claws — the bodies I want to freeze for stock-making later. Rather than just pull them apart alive, I kill them with the traditional knife method: Behind the eyes, and rocking forward out the front of the head.
Coup de grâce!
Boil in salted water, 3-4 minutes for the tails, 3-4 more for the claws
Ice water bath, and then the meat gets pulled from the shells and roughly chopped
A minced clove of garlic in a couple tablespoons of butter, and the meat gets pan-roasted
Some lime and cheddar in the sauce, which has been simmering into loveliness this whole time
Plating: Tortilla nest, with lobster meat in and spilling out, with the chile cream sauce spooned over the whole decadent meal