Annie Hall: Lobster Bake
So easy, so delicious, a lobster bake is also very easy to prepare; it makes it a perfect bachelor's dinner. You don't have to spend hour's in the kitchen getting it ready, and it is really hard to screw up! The end result is a beautiful meal, rich with flavor and color, that makes you look like a chef!
Let's get the terminology straight at the start. We're not going to bake anything. When cooked indoors, lobster bake (or clambake as it is called in some parts of the country) is actually steamed. Instead of digging a fire pit and cooking over coals, we use the stovetop and a steamer.
- 5 one cup bottles of clam juice
- 2 cups of white wine
- 1 bunch of dill
- 1 package of seaweed
- 1 medium red potato
- 1 ear of corn
- 1 1 1/4 pound lobsters
- 1/2 pound mussels
- 4 - 6 clams
- 1/2 chorizo sausages
- 1/2 carrot
- 1/2 stalk of celery
- 1 stick of Butter
For the broth
For each person:
For the Clarified Butter
- 1 lobster or nut cracker per person
- Small lobster forks
- Lobster bibs
- Small sieve for making clarified butter
Note: The ingredients above are for four healthy sized servings. Depending on your guests, you're going to want at least a half a lobster per person. The dish can easily be adapted for an intimate dinner for two or a larger party.
Preparation is key for this dish. If you have everything set up in advance this dish cooks itself! Let's get the ingredients ready. Soak the clams in cool water for about 30 minutes to get rid of any grit. You many also need to scrub the shells a bit to get rid of any crud on the outside. Then, dump the water and put the seafood back in the fridge
While the clams are soaking, let's set the table. With a lobster bake the food comes to the table too fast to allow for setting up on the run. If you do, you'll have plates full of cold seafood, so we'll do it in advance. Put out the little seafood forks, lobster bibs, and nutcrackers. In addition to plates, you're going to want extra bowls on the table to hold the discarded shells. Mugs or bowls are needed for the broth. You'll also want some small bowls of melted clarified butter, for dipping.
You can either purchase the coleslaw and put it in a serving bowl in the fridge, or make one of my recipes, in advance.
My little bottles of clam juice held one cup each.
Fill the bottom of the lobster pot with 5 cups of bottled clam juice.
Now add a bottle of white wine to the pot. Add enough water to bring the level up another two inches.
The proportions to this step will depend on the size of your pot, so let's talk about the general concept of what we're going for and then we'll move onto the process.
The liquid that goes into the bottom of the pot is going to steam the food in the top. Basically, the only way you can ruin this dinner is if you don't put in enough liquid. If you boil dry the pot will burn, and all of your expensive lobster will smell and taste awful. Also, you're going to want to serve the broth as a "side", so there's no reason to scrip on the liquid.
We'll want to give each person a potato, so for each person, slice a a medium red potato in half and add to the pot.
Add a bunch of rinsed, clean dill.
Bring the liquid and potatoes to a boil and cook for about ten minutes, covered. We'll let the potatoes cook part way (parboil), so that when we put everything in the pot for final preparation it will all cook at once. (Note: If you want to pause between the first stage of the cooking and the final preparation, remove the broth from the flame after it has cooked for 10 minutes. Reserve the potatoes to a bowl and refrigerate until you're ready to move onto final cooking, at which time they can be added to the broth.)
Peel the carrots. You need about half a carrot per person
Cut the carrots in half and then into more or less lengths of 3-4 inches.
Now, peel the onion and chop it in half.
Clean and cut 1/2 stalk of celery per person into four inch pieces. This is also a good time to shuck the corn and break it into halves. The corn is usually a big hit, so I give a full ear of corn per person.
We're going to get our top pot ready with all the seafood. Because it is separate, we can work off the flame! First take the package of seaweed and add half to the empty pot.
(If you're using a steamer in a one piece pot, put the potatoes and corn on the bottom, in the broth, and then put the steamer down on top of it. This should lift the rest of the ingredients up above most of the broth, so they can steam - not boil. The object is to keep the seafood from drowning in the liquid. We want it to steam.)
Add the live lobsters.
You've got a lot of food going into the pot, so you may have to be somewhat creative in how you place the lobsters. (Note: Some people add chorizo sausage and even chicken parts to the pot. If you choose to, add them at this point.) Cover with the rest of the seaweed.
Add the corn, carrots, onion and celery.
Now, add the clams.
The mussels go in last.
Here, you can see I've used steamers and littleneck clams.
It's show time! Bring the liquid to a boil covered. From the time the liquid is boiling you have about twenty minutes until dinner is served.
Now, take the top off the boiling liquid and put the middle portion of the pot (with all the seafood and veggies) onto the steaming bottom section.
Immediately cover! Once everything is in the pot, cover it. Reduce the heat to medium, so the steam keeps rising. We don't need a hard boil, just a good head of steam. In 15-20 minutes the dinner will be cooked!
Put two serving platters into the oven to "warm".
This would be a good time to make the clarified butter. Put a stick of butter in a saucepan and melt it over low heat for about 15 minutes until the solids separate from the fat. Basically, you're just melting the butter, not cooking it! Once the butter has separated, take it off the stove for about five minutes.
There will be some foam on the top of the butter; skim it off with a spoon, and discard.
Now, carefully, poor off the clear liquid butter into small bowls, leaving the solids in the pot. I poured my butter through a small sieve, though you can also work by eye, without one. Bring the butter to the table.
While the seafood is cooking, slice a lemon into wedges and put them on the table, along with some oyster crackers, if you can find them, and a bottle of Tabasco sauce. Bring the cole slaw out.
If you've got a second, check the table, fill the water glasses, etc. Things are going to start happening fast and we want to be prepared.
It only takes about 15-20 minutes for the clams to open, and the lobster to change color to bright red.
Unpack the pot. Unlike the picture here, I prefer to put the clams and mussels on one platter, the corn and veggies on another, and the lobster, separate on a third. Use the pre-warmed platters from the oven, so the plates don't sap the heat from the seafood. Cover with aluminum foil until you're ready for the table presentation
The broth goes in a tureen.
Depending on the size of the lobsters, you might want to cut them in half lengthwise at this point and pre-crack the claws away from the table. In the picture here, I not only split the tails, but I removed the claws and served them, in parts, on a separate platter.
Bring the platters of food to the table. Your guests will ooh and ah while you serve everything up. Everyone gets a piece of lobster, a handful of clams, muscles, corn, sausage & potatoes. Serve the cole slaw on the side.
Finally, bring everyone a mug of the delicious broth.
Mmmmmm. It is so good, so tasty, and so easy. Even the clean up is easy. Perfect!
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