Recipe: Lobster Poached In Beurre Monté
Contributor Lisa Fielding is a private chef and boutique caterer based in Manhattan who weekends in Litchfield County whenever possible. Many of her Manhattan clients are also Litchfield County weekenders, so work brings her to Northwest Connecticut as well. A Los Angeles transplant, Fielding was a former Hollywood film executive who segued into screenwriting several years ago, which enabled her to pursue her passion for food and entertaining. Lisa’s culinary skill set draws from a broad spectrum of dishes and ingredients.
Recently, I was asked to prepare an elaborate menu for a very special birthday dinner of which one course was lobster tail. I thought of piggybacking lobster tail and serving with a compound butter. Piggybacking requires a bit of surgery. First you poach the tail and then cut the shell down the center of the back with a kitchen shears, leaving tail fan intact. Next you run your finger between the meat and the shell to loosen them from each other. Then you carefully lift the lobster meat through the slit to rest on top of the shell without severing it entirely.
As fancy as this sounds, the dish still seemed rather “been there, done that.” My sister, also a chef, suggested poaching lobster tail in butter, which didn’t sound entirely innovative, but it did sound rich and decadent. I searched online for recipes and came across lobster tails poached in beurre monté. I liked the sound of beurre monté, and much to my grateful surprise after testing what is more science, less recipe, I was rewarded with one of the most elegant and delicious dishes I’ve ever made; it could only be categorized as heaven sent. To wit, now that I know what I’m doing, I would also classify this meal as easy plus — you will just need some patience and determination to extract the meat from the shells so the pieces are entirely presentable.
First, a few facts.
Beurre monté is an emulsion of water and butter. Yep, that’s it. Plain and simple. In fact, a stick of butter is an emulsion. You can see that when butter melts, separating into clear fat, milk solids floating on top, and water at the bottom. Beurre monté is chilled butter that has been whisked into a couple of tablespoons of simmering water, piece by piece, transforming into a creamy, fluffy and almost bisque-like sauce.
The keys to working with beurre monté are simple:
• Cut the butter into chunks before you begin. You don’t want to have to interrupt the whisking.
• Make sure the water into which you’re emulsifying the butter is at a high simmer but not a boil.
• Once the butter begins to melt and a liquid emulsification is formed, lower the heat so that the beurre monté doesn’t boil; if it boils, the emulsification can break.
• Once the beurre monté has been made, cover it with plastic wrap or a tight-fitting lid and keep it in a warm place; it can be held for hours. Any that’s left over can be stored in the refrigerator, where it can be clarified to be used for sautéeing.
Butter-Poached Lobster Tail with Sauce Fines Herbes
Served on a Bed of Braised Leeks
Active work and total preparation time: 1 hour
2 (1½-lb.) lobsters
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 cups (1 lb.) butter, cut into 1” slices
1½ tablespoons minced fines herbes (equal parts Italian parsley, tarragon and chives — reserve four whole chives for plating)
2 cups chicken bouillon
3 organic baby leeks, halved lengthwise and rinsed
1. Fill large pot with enough water to completely cover the lobsters. Add vinegar and bring to boil. Remove from heat and submerge the lobsters. Steep them for 6 minutes, covered.
2. Remove from the water, twist to remove the knuckles and claws and return these to the water. Separate the tails from the bodies (reserve the bodies for stock or discard). Cut through the cartilage on the undersides of the tails, pull apart, and gently pull out the tail meat in one piece. This is difficult, so tease the meat slowly and cut away at the shell if need be. Cut the tails in half lengthwise, remove the veins, and trim any loose strands.
3. Remove the claw meat from each lobster intact by wiggling off the small lower claw, to which a piece of cartilage is attached (be sure to remove this cartilage if it separates), and by cracking the fat claw near its base to open and remove the meat without damaging it. Remove the knuckle meat and reserve for another use (it’s great sautéed quickly in butter for a snack). Place all the meat on a paper-towel-lined plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to use. (If chilled, allow the lobster meat to sit at room temperature for 1 hour before cooking.)
4. To make the beurre monté: Bring 2 tablespoons water to a simmer in a large saucepan. Whisk in the butter, 1 piece at a time, reducing the heat to low and being careful not to boil the butter. Once the sauce is done, add the fines herbes and allow the flavors to infuse.
5. For the leeks: Bring the bouillon to a simmer in a saucepan large enough to hold all the leeks. Place the leeks in the liquid cut side down. Cover and simmer for 8 minutes, until tender and silky. Remove from the braising liquid.
6. Return the beurre monté to the stovetop and reheat over low heat. Submerge the lobster tails in the sauce and poach over low heat until heated through, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the claw meat to warm for an additional 2 minutes. (The optimum temperature of beurre monté is between 180°F and 190°F.)
7. To serve: In each warmed shallow soup bowl place 3 leek halves. Now place the halved lobster tails and the claws. Ladle 1 cup of the warmed sauce over each. Top each serving with 2 crisscrossed chives.
Voilà! You’ve just cooked like professional chef! And since you’ve gone to all the expense and trouble to make this extraordinary dish, buy a great bottle of Meursault to accompany your beautiful dinner.