(Whole Lobster Meat atop a bed of freshly made pasta, drizzled with Saffron Vanilla Cream Sauce – recipe in post.)
Lobster is easily the most decadent dinner for two around, but with a delicate drizzle of cream, a pinch of saffron, and a hint of vanilla… this dish is Aphrodite’s direct competition.
As you know, I’m not a big subscriber to the Valentine’s Day Hallmark Phenomenon – most years I’d happily let it pass me by – however, this February 14th was not only V-Day, but a minor anniversary for The Boyfriend and myself.
And I can think of no better way to celebrate than with candlelight. Candlelight, and really, really good food.
This meal may look intricate and complex, but its true elegance is in its simplicity. The ingredients are few, the preparation is easy – the execution, flawless.
Although Lobster and Saffron don’t fit into everyone’s budget, when it comes to a special occasion there is no better way to get your money’s worth. My best advice when using expensive ingredients is not to skimp – buy the best you can buy, in the amounts you need, and you will never regret it.
Better than even the most upscale restaurant, and easily for half the cost of eating out – need I say more?
Lobster Fettuccini and Saffron Vanilla Cream Sauce
(Inspired by Daphne Oz’s Lobster with Chardonnay Butter)
1 whole lobster (or about 1/2 lb. lobster meat)
1/2 lb. fresh pasta*
1 cup white wine (use what you like, not cooking wine)
1 shallot, finely chopped or grated
1/2 gram saffron – reserve a few threads for garnish
1/2 vanilla bean
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 lb. unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
Small pinch of salt and pepper
*For the pasta:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup other flour (whole wheat, semolina, or more all-purpose)
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1 TBSP olive oil
2-3 TBSP water, as needed
For the pasta:
In a bowl, stir together the flour(s) and salt. Make a well in the middle and add the egg and olive oil. Begin to stir with your fingers, adding water 1 TBSP at a time until it becomes a shaggy mass. Dump it onto your counter top and knead for 4-5 minutes until the dough is smooth and stiff. If it is at all sticky, add a little flour. Too dry, a few drops of water.
Form the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic, and let rest on the counter for at least 1 hour, or for up to a couple days in the fridge – this resting period is key!
When you’re ready to use the pasta, remove the plastic and roll to your desired thickness. If you’re doing this by hand, go as thin as you can. Cut the pasta and boil in a pot of salted water for 2-3 minutes, or until al-dente. Strain the noodles and toss with a small pat of butter or drizzle of oil to keep them from sticking together. Set aside.
For the lobster:
When using whole lobster, try to buy it the day you plan to make the meal. If you aren’t cooking it immediately, store it in the fridge – this will help it last, and will also make the lobster more lethargic. If you are planning to use it right away without refrigeration, I suggest putting the lobster in the freezer for 5-10 minutes prior to cooking to help numb it.
Bring a large stock pot full of heavily salted water to a rapid boil. You want enough water to submerge the lobster, but not so much that the pot overflows. Carefully drop the lobster head-first into the water, cover with a lid, and cook until it has turned bright red all over – about 8-12 minutes. Note that the cooking time will vary depending on the size of your lobster.
Using tongs or two slotted spoons, carefully remove the lobster to a plate and let cool.
Once cooled to the touch, crack the claws and arms and remove the meat to a small bowl. Twist the tail off, and using kitchen shears cut through the shell to remove the meat. Make an incision, or cut in half, the tail to reveal the ‘vein’ running down the middle of the backside. Rinse this away with your fingers under running water.
Serve the lobster meat whole, or chop it into bite-sized pieces.
For the sauce:
In a saucepan over medium-low heat, add the white wine, shallot, and saffron. Cut your vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds from 1/2 of the bean into the pot. Add the pod itself, as well.
(Tip: save the other half of the bean for later, or scrape it into a container of sugar to make vanilla-sugar.)
Cook, stirring occasionally, until the wine has reduced to just 1-2 Tablespoons.
Add the cream, and reduce the heat to low. Let this cook, stirring frequently, until it has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Begin adding the butter slowly, just one Tablespoon at a time, whisking/stirring until the first pat has completely melted before adding the next. Keep stirring continuously until all the butter has been added and melted.
Add the vanilla extract, the freshly grated nutmeg, and a pinch of salt and pepper to taste – be careful with the salt, you don’t need much.
Toss the noodles and lobster meat into the cream sauce, and serve with a glass of wine and a pinch of saffron threads for garnish.
Vanilla is not so strange a combination with lobster as it may seem. The sweetness of the meat mingled with the warmth of the vanilla is actually a fairly classic combination. And, while saffron may conjure images of Spanish dishes of chicken and rice, I find that its delicate floral flavor fits perfectly amid this harmony of sweet and savory. And the nutmeg to finish off the sauce? Like the cherry on top – just a pinch of nutmeg can transform a regular cream sauce into something incredible without anyone ever knowing it’s there.
Taste buds, prepare to be tantalized.