Although there are different recipes for lobster thermidor, you will see the following recipe is not hard, making it a great one to prepare if you are new to working with shellfish. If you are concerned about cooking live lobsters or removing the lobster meat without damaging the shell (which you need for presentation) then simply buy a pair of ready-cooked lobsters and use those.
This classic French dish is made by combining the cooked lobster meat with cream, mustard, cognac, and other ingredients, then stuffing this mixture back into the shell. The lobsters are then covered with Gruyère cheese and broiled until the cheese crust is golden brown. You can use sherry instead of cognac if you have that, or swap the heavy cream for light cream for a runnier sauce. Some people like to use extra Gruyère too, so use ½ a cup of it if you want a thicker crust.
This recipe was first created in a Parisian restaurant called Marie’s in 1894, to honor the opening of ‘Thermidor’ which was a new play in the local theater. Lobster thermidor can be expensive compared to other seafood dishes, and it can also be time-consuming to prepare, which is why it is often served for special occasions only.
- 2 live lobsters, 1 lb each
- 1 pinch ground nutmeg
- ½ cup fish stock
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- ⅓ cup grated Gruyère cheese
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons cognac
- ¾ teaspoon ground paprika (optional)
- Salt and black pepper, to taste
- Take the elastic bands off the claws and plunge one of the lobsters into a pot of salted boiling water.
- The lobster should be head-first, with the tail tucked underneath (so the tail does not flick boiling water up at you.)
- Cover the pot loosely and cook over a medium-high heat until the shell turns red.
- A 1 lb lobster should take about 5 minutes to cook, from the time the water comes back to a boil.
- Use tongs to transfer the cooked lobster to the sink to cool.
- Cook the second lobster the same way.
- Twist off the claws, crack them, and remove the meat.
- Cut the lobsters in half lengthwise using poultry shears or a big knife, starting from the tail end.
- Remove the tail meat and keep the shells.
- Cut the lobster meat into bite-size chunks.
- Discard any innards, then rinse and dry the shells.
- Pour the fish stock into a pan with the mustard, nutmeg, cream and cognac, and warm the mixture for several minutes.
- Add salt and black pepper to taste, and also some paprika if liked.
- Add the lobster meat and simmer for a couple of minutes until warm, gently shaking the pan occasionally.
- Preheat the broiler.
- Arrange the lobster shells in a shallow baking dish, cut sides up.
- Spoon the lobster mixture into them.
- Sprinkle with cheese and broil 5 inches from the heat for 4 minutes or until the cheese is crusty and golden brown.
- Serve hot.
A lobster thermidor recipe screams elegance and finesse, and many people shun this dish in restaurants because of its expense and also avoid making it at home for fear of it being too complicated. This recipe is quite straightforward though, and if you start off with ready-cooked lobsters there is not a lot to do preparation-wise. The lobster in the photo is garnished with asparagus tips, a slice of black truffle and a sprig of parsley, but these embellishments are up to you, and you can omit them if you choose. This is a sophisticated, timeless dish, which combines gourmet shellfish with a cognac-infused cream sauce, as well as an appealing Gruyère crust, offering a real wow factor.
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